Brought to you by the Continence Foundation of Australia
The kids were thrilled when we bought our first trampoline. I was excited too. Memories of my childhood flooded back. I remember jumping for hours on our trampoline-with-no-nets, perfecting tricks with my sisters, dodging the sprinkle sprays in summer and de-stressing after school. After the kids had a go on the new backyard fun-maker, I took my turn with glee. Maybe I should have said instead…with wee. There’s nothing like a trampoline to test my post-four-babies pelvic floor muscles.
Since that moment 7 years ago, I’ve learned a lot about my body and incontinence, and some of it surprised me. Since it’s World Continence Week, I thought it a good opportunity to discuss this topic because a recent national survey conducted by Contience.org.au shows eight in ten Australian women affected by bladder leakage, fail to seek help for the problem.
I was one of those women until I had a random chat with my physiotherapist friend many years ago. I think as mothers, we are open to talk about it with friends – you know, pretty much all topics are on the table when you’re a mum! We normalise the condition post childbirth (which is great) however this can lead to women not getting help because we think it’s normal and just put up with it.
The thing is, you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to put up with it, and continued incontinence is not always due to childbirth either. In fact, research shows that 85% of women who suffer from bladder leakage mistakenly put it down to childbirth. If you’re like me, and experience leakage when coughing, sneezing or doing active things like jumping and skipping (stress incontinence), pelvic floor muscle training can help to highly minimise and stop the problem. I recommend starting with the Pelvic Floor for Women section on the website which is extremely informative and comprehensive.
The reality is, only two percent of the women who know pelvic floor muscles can prevent and improve incontinence, actually do them. I get this! Personally, I was religious about doing my exercises post birth, every time I breastfed. However, after a while, I forgot about it until that spontaneous conversation with my physio friend.
Can I just jump in here and say, that physiotherapists and other health professionals do not need to be invasive to teach you how to perform pelvic floor exercises correctly. In my experience, they can tell if you’re using the right muscles by checking for specific muscle activation on the abdomen. I didn’t get help for a long time, but when I did, it made a big difference and I’m as active as ever. These days, I run, I skip every week, and just recently, I went to a birthday party at Bounce, and had a blast jumping on the trampolines with my kids…with glee this time.
The tricky thing about pelvic floor exercises is they have to be consistent, rather than get strong and move on, so I find it useful to make it part of my day. The important thing is to learn how to do the exercises correctly and effectively. What has been successful for me over the years is to have triggers to help me remember. Below are some ways I weave it into my life.
- At every red light, I try and remember to squeeze pelvic floor muscles. I have a little sticky note on my dash to remind me. This has opened up conversations with my daughters about the function of the pelvic floor and the importance of keeping them strong.
- There have been times when I have done the exercises before I get out of bed and before I go to sleep.
- I exercise regularly, and make a conscious effort, especially during core work, to pull my pelvic floor tight.
As Continence Foundation of Australia chief executive Rowan Cockerell says, “Incontinence is common, but it’s not normal and should be treated just like any other health condition.” The important take away here is to talk to a health professional about it or head to continence.org.au for more information. Let’s keep talking about it, for sure. But let’s also DO something about it because as mothers, we want the freedom to do things we enjoy.
People affected by incontinence should phone the Continence Foundation’s free National Continence Helpline
(1800 33 00 66) for advice or information on local continence services, or go to continence.org.au.