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BY ANNE-MARIE COOK – from the May, 2015 edition of Australian Women’s Health
One in three. That’s how many women wet themselves when they go for a run, jump around with their kids or even simply sneeze. Here’s my confession – I’m one of the ‘one’. I first noticed it five years ago when I started running again after a hiatus.
I thought it was short-term, but no luck. So I did some research and learned about Kegels – tried them, gave up, tried again. I had an embarrassment or three – running to meet a friend and being so wet down there by the time I reached our meeting place I texted her to say I was ill while ducking into a nearby
public toilet to dry off under a hand dryer. I walked home trying not to cry.
I love running and this problem was stopping me from doing it. Time to make changes. First stop: my GP. During my pap smear I casually bring up my issue and she gives me a label to hang onto – urinary incontinence, or UI – and refers me to my second stop: a gynaecologist.
Lowdown on UI
Dr Jenny Cook (no relation) from Goals for Women clinic asks me the history and habits of my UI. Yes, I’ve tried quitting sugar, alcohol, citrus juice and caffeine, with varying effect.
I learn from Cook there are two types: stress and urge incontinence. In stress UI, leakage happens when you put strain on your pelvic zone; with urge UI you suddenly need to pee, no option. I was pretty sure I had the former, but it’s possible to have both (jackpot!). She checks me for prolapse (when your organs drop through the pelvic floor). I don’t have one of those, phew.
Here’s the thing: I haven’t had a baby, I’m 35, in the healthy weight range and have always been fairly active. I shouldn’t have this problem, right? Cook tells me that the pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that holds my bits (bladder, uterus, bowels) in place. They’re designed to stretch (when you’re preggers they really need to). So while excess weight and babies are two main predictors, running and other bouncy movements can also weaken the pelvic floor until it no longer supports the neck of the bladder properly.
Basically, my pelvic floor is like a bunch of over-stretched rubber bands. Nice.
Cook outlines the plan of attack. Step one: working with a physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic floor weakness and dysfunction. Step two: urodynamic testing measuring bladder pressure, which can feel pretty invasive (a catheter filling my bladder with water, no kidding). Step three: surgery (if required). Pelvic floor exercise does the trick in 80 per cent of cases, Cook says, but adds that she regularly performs ‘mini-sling’ surgery with success. I feel reassured. I think.
Reps, reps, reps
I book in with physiotherapist Shamara Lurie from Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy who delves even deeper into my bladder’s history and habits. Next, another physical exam. If I’m ever going to get over my embarrassment it’ll be now. Lurie gloves up and (professionally and courteously) inserts two fingers into my vagina. I close my eyes and try to go to my special place, like during a pap smear, but that’s not an option – I need to concentrate. She has me imagine dropping a pebble into a pool… only in reverse. Riiiight. So pulling in and up. Lurie asks me to try harder, but then notes I’m engaging my bum and thighs. I try again but now I’ve lost the “pebble” movement. A few more tries and I’m getting it: lift the floor, engage the right bit of the core, no bum. That’s one Kegel; the first I’ve ever done properly.
She writes me a program of 10 reps of three exercises three times a day, to start off, then shows me some devices that can help with my form and progress (yep, there’s an app for that, see the Pericoach at right).
It’s been a month since my consult and I’m preferring the device-assisted moves (see right) over the raw Kegels. I’m doing 20 minutes of exercises daily, split between the electro stimulation and vaginal weights, then measuring my progress with the app. Like any workout program, it takes three months to see serious results. But today, I sneezed. And for the first time in a long while it was not a big deal. Which is a big deal to me.
I am a nurse and have worked in the field of gynaecology for many years. I worked for six years for a Consultant Gynaecologist in the UK whose area of interest was Urogynaecology. We trialed several different in-development devices, to help wom(...)
I am a fifty-nine year old woman who runs a very busy and successful professional practice. Keeping fit and healthy has always been an important part of my lifestyle including having a personal trainer who recently asked me to expand my exercise(...)
I am a Latin American and ballroom dancing teacher. My six-day a week program includes Salsa, Meringue, Rock N Roll and Swing. I am committed to many hours of constant training and exercise that the dancing industry demands. My wetness problem p(...)
I would like to say thank you for the Contiform unit. It has made my life so much more comfortable. I can sneeze and cough without wetting myself! Going swimming now in a pool, and knowing that I will not make the water around me turn yellow, is(...)
I cannot find words to thank you enough for Contiform. I have been using Contiform for the past 4 months and cannot believe it is working 100%. I can now wear slacks and also go swimming. Neither of these things have I been able to do for years,(...)
I am the paraplegic woman that contacted you some months ago. The Contiform is very effective and works well when I'm riding my horse, sailing, and doing other strenuous activities, and has improved my life dramatically as I no longer have the e(...)
I wish to convey my heartfelt thanks for being introduced to Contiform. As an active 47 year old I am thrilled to finally have control of my personal wetness with the assistance of this product. I have suffered from personal wetness for many yea(...)
I cannot begin to tell you how Contiform has changed my life. Now I am not always searching for restrooms and it has saved me from having an operation.
I am a mother of three young adults, with a busy life, which goes without saying. Over the years a little stress incontinence has occurred. Things like sneezing, coughing and laughter have led to small accidents however heavy aerobics and exerci(...)
Once fitted correctly, Contiform is a very user friendly device that provides women with added confidence to carry out normal activities. Especially effective for those who leak mainly during sport or exercise. In our experience, it is a very us(...)
Just wanted to let you know about how I went using contiform for the first time. I am 42 with two children.
I exercise daily which includes running, cycling, weights and high impact cardio classes.
For a long time, I have suffered from stress (...)
Urinary incontinence is urine leakage from a loss