3 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Incontinence
Do you leak when you laugh, sneeze or jump? What about when you are running to use the toilet? Truth of the matter is either you or someone you know does. It is very common. One previous study found that 51.1 percent of women have urinary incontinence. Even though it is as common as flipping a coin and landing heads, it is NOT normal. Here are 3 ways you can reduce your risk of peeing your pants.
Optimize Pelvic floor muscle function
The most important thing you can do is make sure your pelvic floor muscles are working properly. They have many job, one being the gatekeeper of pee and poo. Many people think just doing kegels is enough to prevent incontinence, but this is not true. It IS true that weakness of the pelvic floor can lead to incontinence but tight pelvic floor muscles can also cause incontinence. Your pelvic floor muscles need to be able to fully contract and fully relax in order to do their job of keeping urine in.
The best way to check if your pelvic floor is functioning properly is to see a pelvic physical therapist to assess the state of your pelvic floor muscles and give you a treatment specific to you. Treatment options for weakness include: kegels, hip strengthening, learning proper breathing mechanics, and in some cases electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) may be used. If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, then stretches, breathing techniques, stress management and dilators can be helpful tools.
Before having your pelvic floor assessed, an important step to take on your own is to make sure you are breathing properly. As you inhale, let your belly rise and your ribs expand outward and as you exhale let the belly fall and your ribs come inward. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor move together; as your diaphragm contracts when you inhale the pelvic floor muscles relax; as the diaphragm relaxes as you exhale the pelvic floor muscles contract. Stop sucking in your belly and let it move as you breathe!
Image from @conor_harris_ on Twitter
Move your body and don’t smoke
Two other modifiable risk factors for incontinence include being overweight and using tobacco. I recognize changing these factors is easier said than done, so seek professional help if you are struggling.
Being overweight increases pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles which can make it harder for the pelvic floor muscles to do their job and hold in urine. Try to reach the recommendations of physical activity from the American Heart Association of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, along with 2 days per week of resistance training.
Find physical activities that you enjoy, whether it is yoga, pilates, running, strength training or chasing after your kids, it all adds up to make a difference.
Prioritize your pelvic floor, move your body in ways that feel good, and be mindful about how you breathe and what you are breathing in.
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