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Why Do I Keep Peeing My Pants? Understanding Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Updated: Jun 6

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a simple sneeze or a burst of laughter leads to an unexpected and embarrassing leak? You're not alone. Many people experience urinary leakage, and it's a particularly common issue among postpartum women. However, it's crucial to understand that while urinary incontinence may be common, it is not an inevitable or acceptable part of life. This blog post walks you through the two types of pelvic floor dysfunction, pinpoint the root cause, and explain what needs to be done to prevent and manage pelvic floor dysfunction.

Urinary leakage during sudden movements such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, or engaging in high-intensity exercise is a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction. While it is a common complaint for postpartum women—with approximately one in three experiencing urinary leakage between 6 and 12 months after giving birth—it is important to emphasize that this is not "normal" or natural. In other words, urinary incontinence is not a rite of passage for becoming a mom, nor is it something you should simply accept and live with! Moreover, pelvic floor dysfunction is not an issue exclusive to postpartum women.

Two types of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction:

Pelvic floor dysfunction can manifest in two primary ways. Both have the same root cause and can largely be addressed with similar strategies.

  1. Stress Incontinence: This involves urinary (or fecal) leakage during sudden impact movements, such as those mentioned above.

  2. Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP): POP occurs when one or more organs in the pelvic region—specifically the bladder, rectum, or uterus—shift downwards from their normal location. This condition might be experienced as a sensation akin to carrying a heavy "bowling ball" between the legs. POP is categorized into four levels: Grade 0 indicates no prolapse; Grade 4, which is the most critical, occurs when the pelvic organs drop to such an extent that they may bulge through the vaginal or rectal opening. Although this extreme case might necessitate surgical intervention, it is relatively uncommon.

The Root of the Problem

The underlying cause of pelvic floor dysfunction is often excessive intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure can be caused by poor posture, a weak or overwhelmed core, holding your breath during exercise, lifting heavy objects, straining during bowel movements, and/or habitually sucking in your stomach. Your core comprises three components that resemble a canister—the diaphragm on top, the pelvic floor on the bottom, and the transverse abdominis wrapping around the sides.

Quick Tips to Start Healing and Strengthening Your Core

  1. Avoid Exercises that Cause Excessive Intra-Abdominal Pressure: This includes sit-ups, crunches, planks, and front-loaded exercises until your core has had a chance to heal and strengthen.

  2. Bring Awareness to Neutral Alignment: Proper alignment ensures your body functions optimally and reduces unnecessary strain on your core.

  3. Practice Proper Core Activation through 360-breathing and Pelvic Floor Activations. These techniques are foundational for rebuilding core strength and ensuring all muscles work together effectively.

  4. Implement Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the intensity and complexity of your exercises to continue building strength safely and effectively.

Remember, pelvic floor dysfunction is a treatable condition that you don't have to accept as a part of your life. By educating ourselves on the structure and function of the pelvic floor, adopting correct postural habits, and engaging in targeted exercises, we can significantly reduce or even eliminate the discomfort and inconvenience of urinary leakage. Seeking help from a healthcare professional, especially a pelvic floor therapist, can provide personalized guidance and support. It's time to move beyond embarrassment and discomfort and towards a healthier, more confident you.

Here's to embracing and celebrating every part of our postpartum journey!

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