One in three women and one in nine men leak when they laugh, cough or sneeze. That’s a third of the women in your office, on your bus and in your home sitting on incontinence pads, which can themselves cause problems with sore and irritated skin.
But since it’s World Continence Week, you can stop leaking when you laugh. Urinary incontinence is a largely curable condition. So here are five top tips to make you laugh out loud from Elaine Miller, an Edinburgh physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic conditions and has used her experience to become a comedian, performing on TV, radio, in front of fellow medical professionals and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
1. Get your bladder whipped!
“It is trainable in both good and bad ways,” says Elaine. “It’s smart enough to anticipate you, so you can find yourself falling into a bladder bursting category – the doorstep drencher, or the waterfall wetter, for instance. There are people who routinely go to the toilet as soon as they get home, and their bodies know this. The danger is that they get to the front door and wet themselves right there – and a welcome mat is not a good incontinence pad! It’s not the length of time you take juggling bags as you fumbling for the key, it’s the fact that you’re in the habit of doing the bladder dash from the door to the loo, so your bladder anticipates it and gets over excited. Another example is people who often wee in the shower might find themselves embarrassed if they’re standing at a beautiful waterfall and there are no public conveniences! So change your habits and tell yourself and your bladder that you’re not falling for it!”
2. Prepare for pregnancy.
Elaine says: “I was a sports physio until I had three children with extraordinarily big heads, and then I lost interest in handsome rugby players who actually wanted me to touch them, and instead became absolutely fascinated with pelvic floor muscles! Mine had been reduced to rubble. I was leaking all over the place.”
Stress incontinence is very common because of hormone and postural changes in pregnancy. Elaine says: “Research shows that pregnant women who leak, or who become incontinent after giving birth, are more likely to still have continence problems when the baby starts school. Importantly, leaking urine doubles your risk of developing postnatal depression. Pelvic physios can help alleviate pelvic girdle pain and low back pain. We can give advice on positioning, toileting, relaxation and appropriate supports to keep you active whilst easing the pressure on your core muscles and pelvic floor.”
Some physios do the Mummy MOT, based on the French post-natal care, widely regarded as the best in the world. Mummy MOT is available for women who have delivered their babies 6 weeks, 6 years or 60 years ago. Elaine adds: “We physios say ‘Once you’re post-natal, you’re always post-natal!’.”
3. Soreness and irritation relief
Multi-Gyn Compresses are great for first aid when incontinence causes soreness or irritation, and Multi-Gyn IntiSkin is a handy spray to gives cooling and soothing relief as well as eliminating odour when you’re out and about, or after sport. They contain 2QR-complex, which is an extract of aloe vera that helps to heal cuts and sores and neutralises bacteria which causes odour and inflammation/infection. For more details on Multi-Gyn products, click here.
4. Twowee exercises
“Evidence shows that a strong pelvic floor is associated with toe-curling, blaspheming, panting orgasms. That’s science,” says Elaine. “So, if wetting yourself isn’t a strong enough incentive for doing pelvic floor exercises then surely that is! It worked for me, I don’t wet myself any more.” Sometimes the pelvic floor muscles can become too weak or too tight so they’re unable to do their job properly. Elaine says: “There are two main exercises. One is to clench your pelvic floor muscles for a count of ten, the other is ten quick flicks in a row. Imagine you’re on a date and you can feel a wee fart brewing. You’re not going win their heart by letting rip, so you hold on with your bum muscles…you know what I’m talking about. That’s you working your pelvic floor. You have to breathe at the same time, that’s quite important! For guys, imagine you’re walking into cold water and you know that the next wave is going to lick your testicles and you do a wee lift…that’s the move. Hold for ten. The ten quick flicks are the same movement but faster. If you’re going up and down in your seat, you aren’t just cheating by using your buttocks which is the wrong thing entirely but your hot date will think you are weird.”
5. Don’t suffer in silence!
“Around eight sessions with a physio is, on average, enough to solve the problem in most people. True! And 70-80% can be cured with physiotherapy.” Most cases of vaginal prolapse can be managed with pelvic floor exercises and physiotherapy. That’s more effective than any surgery or medication. Elaine says: “See your GP and ask for a referral. No, demand one! And bear in mind that most doctors, even gynaecologists who are dealing with vaginas all day long, are unlikely to ask you because they see it as an embarrassing subject too. Don’t put up with incontinence.”
“A physio will listen to you first and foremost, acknowledging that you are the expert on your condition. A full body assessment including posture, breathing, spine and – ideally but not necessarily – an internal will identify muscle function issues. Then we will teach you how to properly contract your pelvic floor, how to let it relax and give you a personalised home exercise programme to follow.”
- World Continence Week is June 19-25, designated by the International Continence Society. Elaine Miller’s one-hour Gusset Grippers show is at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August at Woodland Creatures (venue 282). You can get the tickets to the event here.
- Multi-Gyn products can be bought from online via Stress no more webshop.
- Multi-Gyn’s unique ingredient 2QR-complex is a clinically proven crosspolymer that attaches to the binding sites of harmful bacteria, thus preventing them from adhering to human tissue, where they would cause irritation, inflammation or infection. Multi-Gyn products offer immediate cooling and soothing relief. IntiSkin has an innovative nozzle which allows it to produce a light mist when sprayed at any angle.