I'm a little surprised that I'm about to write about leaky bladders and rogue toots. Blogging is a slippery slope, isn't it? But I am setting my own dignity aside in the hopes that this may be helpful to someone. Or at least 20 people. I wouldn't put my dignity on the line unless it helped at least 20 people. Since this thing I'm about to write about is an issue that may affect as many as 34% of mommas, I think 20 is a fair hope.
|Wild Waters!!! Photo by Even Normann via Creative Commons|
One of my friends, who is a teacher, told me that after her first child was born she peed her pants one day while she was jump roping with her students at recess. So, unfortunately, I'm not the only momma to have this issue. Technically it's called incontinence, but I prefer the term "mommy-bladder." It just sounds nicer, don't you think? And less like an old lady problem (no offense to old ladies - I plan to be one someday).
I read that even though literally millions of women experience this problem, 50 - 70% don't seek medical help, mostly because they are embarrassed. This really stinks because women are probably doing web searches looking for a solution and most of the advice I have read involves kegels, cutting out caffeine (um, hello, we are moms! We need our caffeine!), and surgery.
Fortunately, I have no shame and mentioned the problem at my 6-week postpartum visit. My doctor explained that in many cases mommy-bladder improves on its own - it usually becomes less frequent, even if it doesn't go away entirely - but if it didn't, physical therapy might help. Yes, physical therapy. Who knew? I sure didn't. Lucky me, I have good insurance, so I went ahead and hopped on that PT train.
There are four different kinds of incontinence and pelvic floor exercises are a treatment option for most of them. It may not work with everyone, but it is an option to try. Kegels are great (research suggests they really do help), but not everyone can easily "find" their pelvic floor muscles. As I learned, squeezing one's tushie or tensing the thighs is not a kegel. What my physical therapist did was basically teach me how to target my pelvic floor muscles so that I could then strengthen them through exercise. Strong pelvic floor muscles = no more mommy-bladder. My PT used biofeedback, so we could see on a computer screen whether I was using the correct muscles and track progress over time as the muscles grew stronger. My "homework" was to do different variations of kegels several times a day to build both control and stamina of the muscles. There was also an educational component, as I learned more about the physiology behind mommy-bladder.
|Ahhhh, that's better! Photo by Urko Dorronsoro via Creative Commons|
It ends up that after Bee was born I had no problems at all with mommy-bladder. He was a giant baby (9 lbs, 5 oz) but his birth was a momma's dream - super fast and easy. My hunch is that my pelvic floor just didn't take the beating it did when Zip was born. Same momma, different experience. One study found that women were more likely to have mommy-bladder if they delivered vaginally (as opposed to c-section) and if forceps were used. Women with leaky bladders during pregnancy were also more likely to experience mommy-bladder after the baby was born. Surprisingly, having a long labor, tearing, or a big baby didn't seem to have an effect. (Burgio, Zyczynski, Locher, Richter, Redden, & Wright, 2008)
The reason I wanted to share this is that I rarely hear PT mentioned as an option for a problem that a lot of us experience. So now you know that and more about me than I ever intended to share!
Just a reminder: I am not a physician or in the medical field. This post is based on my personal experience.
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