Five Minutes a Day Can Combat Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence and poor bladder control is something that affects many women and unfortunately is not frequently talked about. There are many things that can contribute to urinary incontinence such as diet, surgical history, and pelvic floor strength. The pelvic floor is considered the group of muscles that forms a hammock within the pelvic and is very important when managing bathroom habits. Stress incontinence is a term used for incontinence when doing things such as sneezing, coughing, or jumping caused by poor pelvic floor strength. Child birth and menopause can both affect the integrity of these muscles and limit them from functioning efficiently.
The term “Kegel” is a well-known word for an exercise that strengthens the pelvic floor. Although this exercise is well known and attempted, a Kegel exercise if often done incorrectly. The problem is common and it’s that many people compensate and use muscles such as their abdominals, glutes, and hip adductors when performing a Kegel. This can exacerbate the problem because people do not isolate the pelvic floor muscles, and the results are poor effectiveness of the exercise and not true strengthening.
The Proper Kegel:
Goal: Gently tighten and lift the pelvic floor without using other muscles
The endurance of these muscles is also an important factor for proper bladder control. It is recommended once you have properly tightened the Kegel, you hold it for five-10 seconds and perform a minimum of thirty a day to improve muscle strength. Simply, five minutes of exercise can greatly improve your strength and quality of life.
Physical therapy can significantly help train people to do a Kegel correctly and help manage urinary stress incontinence. At Therapeutic Associates, we can do a non-invasive evaluation and teach you how to do a proper Kegel by using our Real Time Ultrasound machine that shows you which muscles you are using while attempting the Kegels. Visually seeing how these important muscles are functioning help correct bad habits and strengthen the proper muscles. Combined with other techniques we can help combat urinary incontinence and allow you to get active without worrying about where the next rest room is.
Reflections on my birth story one year later...
My daughter was born just over a year ago** via a (very reluctantly) planned C-section. I found out my baby was footling breech just before 34 weeks. I dove headfirst into any and all attempts to get baby girl head down – Spinning Babies, chiropractic care, acupuncture, Hypnobirthing and even two versions. External cephalic version is a process by which a breech baby can sometimes be turned from buttocks or foot first to head first.
Despite the excitement surrounding me and my husband, imminently welcoming our first child into the world, I felt devastated. There were so many feelings and emotions: loss and heartbreak at not getting a chance to have the birth I'd envisioned and prepared for. Anger at my care providers for not noticing her positioning earlier and ashamedly some anger towards my baby for not doing what babies are "supposed," to do and total frustration with my body for somehow failing me at the end of my pregnancy. It felt like not many people truly could empathize with what I was feeling... as long as baby and mom were healthy, why should it matter?
I'd done some reading on the "gentle" C-section and felt so strongly that immediate skin-to-skin in the Operating Room (OR) was the only option I could accept if a C-section was my fate. When my care provider could not guarantee the type of C-section I was asking for, knowing very well that it was being practiced at another local hospital, I left. I sought out a caring and empathetic provider who not only agreed to my birth plan, but assured me that this was her normal C-section procedure.
Being able to see my daughter and hold her immediately on my chest is a feeling I'll never forget. The moment they brought her up to my face, new and bloody and just-birthed, she reached right for my nose and grasped on. When I look at that picture, it feels like my heart will explode and tears brim in my eyes even a year later. It’s my dream that the future of C-section births will start to look more and more like this - that C-section moms will feel more connected to the moment their babies arrive earthside and will feel more respected, heard and involved in their surgical births.
With the passing of a full year, the pain I felt at not having the birth I so wanted began to soften. I still mourn that loss but what I've learned from therapy and self-reflection is that it's ok to feel both immense joy at the birth of my beautiful baby as well as sadness and grief for the birth I would have preferred. I hope that more moms can learn and accept that it's ok to feel both.
But most importantly, if there is anything that I could impress upon my fellow expecting mamas, it is to ADVOCATE – for yourself, for your baby and for your family. You deserve the opportunity to make the best decisions possible. When I didn't get the answers I needed, I found a new doctor at 39 weeks! I am proud of that decision, I am proud of every question I asked, every "no" I pushed back at. One day I will tell my daughter about her birth and I will make sure to include in that story, the bravery with which I brought her into this world.
**My daughter is now 16 months old and I’m happily expecting our second child in September! I’m very happily planning for a beautiful VBAC!
Jenny Robertson is a Boston based yogi and mother. She teaches prenatal yoga at Om Births where we met and did our prenatal yoga teacher training together. She is a beautiful soul and inspires expectant mothers every day.