A solution for incontinence may be much easier than you think.
Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe
Some active women cope with occasional leakage of urine by wearing black, minimizing fluid intake before exercising, and even wearing pads or tampons. Others stop exercising altogether because they fear leakage. “I wouldn’t recommend any of these — they’re coping strategies, not solutions — and women should always be well hydrated before exercise,” says Stephanie Morgan, M.D., a board-certified Urogynecologist at The Iowa Clinic. Dr. Morgan focuses on disorders of the female pelvic floor and reconstructive surgery.
Exercise-induced incontinence — a form of stress incontinence — is a moderate or substantial barrier to exercise for nearly 10 percent of women, according to a study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology Journal.
“To maintain health in the future, it’s important to be physically active. If exercise isn’t enjoyable because of leakage, we need to find a way to treat it,” Morgan says.
Today’s Solutions are Much Simpler & More Effective
In addition to properly doing Kegel exercises to help build the muscles in the pelvic floor, which helps hold urine, other options for exercise-related stress incontinence are available — most of which are non-surgical, done in your physician’s office, and have zero risk.
Morgan’s preferred treatment is to fit patients with a removable vaginal incontinence ring, also called a pessary. “This fits inside the vagina and stops leakage of urine by acting as a backstop, replacing what the muscles used to do. It works instantly,” she says.
This device is also extremely convenient. “Just as you put on shoes and a sports bra, you just insert it and head to the gym. You can wear it for short periods or up to a week,” she says.
“If leakage worsens because your muscles weaken, you gain weight, or you want to do more strenuous exercise, we can easily fit you with a new ring. That’s another great benefit,” Morgan says.
Depending on the patient’s age, medical needs and risk, and social goals, another non-surgical or surgical option may be recommended.
“The most effective surgical procedure for stress incontinence is vaginal taping, or a mid-urethral sling,” Morgan says. This outpatient procedure reduces or prevents the loss of urine by helping close the urethra and bladder neck. Even 15 years after the procedure, it is 78−94 percent effective.
“It’s important to not just live with urinary leakage,” says Morgan. “If it affects your quality of life, or if it causes you to cut back physical activity, change the type of exercise, or gain weight because of not exercising, it’s time to come in and get checked out.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Morgan or an OB/GYN provider at The Iowa Clinic, call 515-875-9290.
SHOULD YOU SEE A DOCTOR?
One in seven women experiences exercise-related stress incontinence. When it impacts quality of life, it’s time to see a physician. Remember, exercise-related and other forms of incontinence are extremely common. There’s no reason to be embarrassed.
If two or more of the following apply to you, make an appointment with your healthcare provider:
- Do you ever have unexpected leaks during the day or while sleeping?
- Do you experience leakage when you laugh, sneeze, or jump?
- Do you have difficulty holding your bladder when hurrying to the restroom?
- Do you frequently have a sudden urge to urinate but are unable to get to the restroom in time?
- Have you noticed a change in how often you need to use the restroom?
- Do you use the restroom more than eight times a day?
- Do you get up more than twice during the night to use the restroom?
- Do you wear pads, liners, or tampons to protect against accidental leaks?
- When planning any kind of outing, does the availability or location of restroom facilities influence your plans?