Do you pee a little bit when you workout or laugh?
It’s an embarrassing question and women may not feel comfortable asking, but it happens much more often than you’d think, according to Emanuel Trabuco, urogynecologist at the Mayo Clinic.
“It’s super common, but for a lot of patients it’s not something that becomes bothersome until it progresses and begins to impact their quality of life,” he said.
Stress incontinence or light bladder leakage is caused when muscles and connective tissue surrounding the bladder and pelvic area become lax or weakened. The condition can be triggered by certain diet choices, childbirth, obesity and menopause, when women’s bodies are not producing as much estrogen, according to Jessica Shepherd, a women’s health expert and OBGYN.
Women may have a little urine leak during activities where they are straining, such as jumping, high-intensity workouts, laughing, and even coughing, according to Shepherd.
“I think for years women have had this stigma on urine incontinence and they feel shame or guilt associated with the actual diagnosis, but it really can affect women from a young age to older," Shepherd said.
While it may be inconvenient for women, it’s treatable through medication, pelvic physical therapy, surgery or even through a tampon-like device that can stop the urethra from allowing urine to escape during strenuous activity.
“Poise has one that’s similar to a tampon, but it’s not a tampon and doesn’t have absorbent qualities, it’s just pushing in the right direction to help stop leakage,” she said.
For those who are not interested in surgery, physical pelvic therapy may help.
And while you may automatically think about kegels, that’s just a small part of pelvic physical therapy, Trabuco said.
“Kegels is an expression that gets knocked around a lot, but when you actually examine patients and have them try to identify their pelvic floor muscles, they often aren’t identifying their pelvic floor muscles,” Trabuco said. “Therapy can strengthen the pelvic floor, so when you feel a sneeze or a cough coming you can engage those muscles and reduce leakage.”
Shepherd encourages women who are dealing with the issue to push past any embarrassment and reach out to their doctor or specialists, who can work with them to identify a treatment route that works for them.
The beauty of science is we have so many things to help, but can’t help if we don’t know," she said. "It's really engaging in that conversation with healthcare providers to give you tools to be at your best.”
Follow Mary Bowerman on Twitter: @MaryBowerman