dr. frank at your cervix!
dr. frank at your cervix!
pee in your pants a little? you're not alone! i have a dirty word for you - it's called incontinence and it is super common. urinary incontinence affects nearly 30% of postpartum women up to 1 year after giving birth. some women will experience leaking of urine when they cough or sneeze while pregnant. we usually just blame the baby for pushing on the bladder! for many, this will resolve at some point after birth. however, for some women this leaking of urine at inopportune times is a real upset to daily life and feeling lady-like. this may be during exercise or when your bladder is really full and you just can't make it to the bathroom in time.
let's get technical for a minute, as this may help explain things better. urinary incontinence affects women for two main physiological reasons - we carry babies on our pelvic floor AND we were gifted with a short urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside world)! think about the pelvic floor like a hammock that holds all of your insides in. it is a group of muscles that does a lot of work for us all of the time. having babies, carrying around a few extra pounds, and aging all make this muscle droop a little bit. when this muscle weakens it leads to urinary leakage.
now that you have a visual of the pelvic floor you can see why it is so important to exercise this muscle. if you have never heard of kegel exercises it is time you look it up. these exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor and can be done at any time without anyone knowing what you're up to - i'm doing them right now! there are other treatments out there like pelvic floor physical therapy and even apps on your smartphone that can help. if you are done having children there is an outpatient procedure that tacks everything back up where it should be. for many postpartum moms the pelvic floor will heal after 2-3 months and the whoops i peed a little will resolve on its own. for some it can last up to 1 year. it is also important that you are using the right products that are made specifically for urine - period pads may not do the trick.
like many ailments affecting a woman's complicated body incontinence is only a problem if it is bothering your quality of life - does it get in the way of you enjoying a jog or laughing with friends over wine? sometimes a simple definition of the issue going on down there and how you can fix it is enough to reassure and empower. so should we stuff our undies with some TP and cross our legs (and toes) and hope for the best? absolutely not, ask for help! you are not alone.
dr barbara frank is a fellow of the american college of obstetrics and gynecology and is affiliated with brigham and women's hospital and brookline village OBGYN. she is also a faculty member of harvard medical school. dr. frank lines in boston and is a wife and mom of two young children.