Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, is a health issue affecting millions of women. Urinary incontinence is more than a medical issue, it is a restrictive and often embarrassing problem that can have emotional, psychological, and social impacts. The severity can range from occasional leaking due to a sneeze or laugh, or to an urge so strong and sudden that you are unable to make it to a toilet in time. Statistically, one in four women over the age of eighteen will experience episodes of leaking urine involuntarily.

There are two major types of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence happens when urine leaks during exercise, coughing, laughing, lifting, or other movements that put pressure on the bladder. The other type, overactive bladder, occurs when your brain tells your bladder to empty even when it isn't full. In other words, the bladder muscles are too active. Some people experience symptoms of both types, which is called mixed incontinence.

Pregnancy in women is a major cause of urinary incontinence. During pregnancy, an immense amount of pressure is put on the lower abdomen. Then, during labor, the baby moves down through the birth canal stretching the muscles and nerves that help to keep the bladder shut. This can all lead to the muscles becoming weak and unable to prevent the bladder from leaking

There are many ways to prevent and relieve the symptoms of urinary incontinence. First and foremost, maintaining a healthy weight can keep unnecessary pressure off of the bladder and its muscles. Drink lots of water to ensure a healthy flow of fluids. Eat more fiber, which can prevent constipation, a cause of pressure in the lower abdomen. Finally, you can practice pelvic floor exercises, known as Kegels.

Pelvic floor muscles help to close off the bladder, bowel, and vagina as well as keep the bladder, uterus, and bowel in their correct place. Sometimes during pregnancy or after birth the weakened pelvic floor muscles cause problems. Kegel exercises can be done during pregnancy or after childbirth to try to prevent urinary incontinence. Try the following Kegel technique: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

Beyond Kegels and a healthy lifestyle, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be a powerful tool in bringing strength and tone back to your pelvic floor muscles and bladder. This is a regular part of our postpartum treatment plans.


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