Pregnancy And Birth Can Weaken The Muscles Supporting Your Bladder... Leading To Stress Incontinence.

Pregnancy and birth can weaken the muscles supporting your bladder... leading to stress incontinence. If it's not a problem now, use these exercises to prevent it and to strengthen your body for the pushing phase of labor. And if coughing, laughing, sneezing, or other movements cause you to leak urine, you may already have this kind of the most common and treatable incontinence. Read on to find out what you can do right now!
Why it happens
When the pelvic floor muscles weaken, your bladder can move downward, pushing slightly out of the bottom of the pelvis toward the vagina, preventing muscles that ordinarily force the urethra shut from squeezing as tightly as they should. As a result, urine can leak into the urethra during moments of physical stress. Pregnant women can prevent problems while women with bladder control problems can regain control through pelvic muscle exercises called Kegel exercises.

Pelvic fitness in minutes a day
Exercising your pelvic floor muscles for just five minutes, three times a day, can make a big difference to your bladder control. Exercise strengthens muscles that hold the bladder and many other organs in place.

"I try to do Kegels, especially now with this pregnancy," says expectant mom Kirbil. "After [my first birth], I had 'issues.' And yesterday, the 'ol sneeze-plus-pee snuck up on me, too," she laughs. "They do work."

The part of your body including your hip bones is called the pelvic area. At the bottom of the pelvis, several layers of muscle stretch between your legs. The muscles attach to the front, back, and sides of the pelvis bone. Two pelvic muscles do most of the work. The biggest one stretches like a hammock. The other is shaped like a triangle. These muscles prevent leaking of urine and stool.

How do you exercise your pelvic muscles? First, find the right muscles. This is very important. (Your healthcare provider can help make sure you are doing the exercises the right way.) You should tighten the two major muscles that stretch across your pelvic floor, the "hammock" muscle and the "triangle" muscle. Here are three methods to check for the correct muscles.

  1. Try to stop the flow of urine when you are sitting on the toilet. If you can do it, you are using the right muscles.
  2. Imagine that you are trying to stop passing gas. Squeeze the muscles you would use. If you sense a "pulling" feeling, those are the right muscles for pelvic exercises.
  3. Lie down and put your finger inside your vagina. Squeeze as if you were trying to stop urine from coming out. If you feel tightness on your finger, you are squeezing the right pelvic muscle.

Kegel Tips
Don't squeeze other muscles at the same time. Be careful not to tighten your stomach, legs, or other muscles. Squeezing the wrong muscles can put more pressure on your bladder control muscles. Just squeeze the pelvic muscle. Don't hold your breath.

Repeat, but don't overdo it. At first, find a quiet spot to practice -- your bathroom or bedroom -- so you can concentrate. Lie on the floor. Pull in the pelvic muscles and hold for a count of 3. Then relax for a count of 3. Work up to 10 to 15 repeats each time you exercise.

Do your pelvic exercises at least three times a day. Every day, use three positions: lying, sitting, and standing. You can exercise while lying on the floor, sitting at a desk, or standing in the kitchen. Using all three positions makes the muscles strongest. "I'm the kegal queen!" says mom Amanda. "And... my husband thanks me for faithfully exercising."

Be patient. Don't give up. It's just 5 minutes, three times a day. You may not feel your bladder control improve until after 3 to 6 weeks. Still, most women do notice an improvement after a few weeks.

Exercise aids. You can also exercise by using special weights or biofeedback. Ask your health care team about these exercise aids.

Hold the squeeze 'til after the sneeze You can protect your pelvic muscles from more damage by bracing yourself. Think ahead -- just before sneezing, coughing, lifting, or jumping. Sudden pressure from such actions can hurt those pelvic muscles. Squeeze your pelvic muscles tightly and hold on until after you sneeze, lift, or jump. After you train yourself to tighten the pelvic muscles for these moments, you will have fewer accidents. "Kegels are something I have always done," Laurie says. "I don't even think about it... But I haven't had any problems with peeing myself when I sneeze, and I sure sneeze a lot!"

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