Patient Perspective: Sally's Story

Sally's Story - Running and working out when you have incontinence

Once both my kids were in elementary school full time, I finally started working out. I became a runner, and devoted most mornings after they were in school to jogging through the neighborhood. I entered races and started doing small 5Ks, until I finally worked my way up to a full marathon last year. Things were going great and I was feeling strong and happy.

So, imagine my surprise, after years of being an avid runner, to suddenly start experiencing bladder leaks. My kids were not little anymore – they were both in high school at this point and I thought that I bypassed this type of problem that usually accompanies childbirth.

I spoke to my doctor, and found out that, to my surprise, this problem often accompanies serious runners too. Turns out that pounding the pavement every day isn’t so great for your pelvic floor. In fact, my doctor told me that up to 30% of female runners experience incontinence while running.

My doctor said there are lots of things that can weaken the pelvic floor over the years; childbirth, age, and surgeries can all take their toll (I unfortunately check all three boxes). Add to that running several miles per week, and I saw how my activity was contributing to the problem. 

I wasn't ready to give up running, and luckily my doctor didn't think I had to. While there are many therapies available (medication, surgery, exercise), he started me on a regimen of kegel exercises. I do them first thing in the morning, and 3 other times throughout the day.  He also recommended that I try some other behavioral tactics: limit my fluid intake right before my run, make sure to empty my bladder before running, and try planning a route that has some bathroom stops along the way. 

These changes have been helping me a lot and while there might come a time that I consider something like surgery, for now, it helps to know that I’m able to take matters into my own hands and manage my bladder leaks without stopping the activities I love. 

I'm glad I opened up about this condition and can continue my passion!

Sally S., Atlanta, GA

Patient Perspective: Merrell's Story

Patient Perspective: Merrell's Story, new mom, stress urinary incontinence

I gave birth to my first little bundle of joy a year ago.  My pregnancy was a dream – no morning sickness, no stretch marks - it was a total breeze, apart from the occasional leaks I had leading up to the birth. I had heard leaks were totally normal though, and figured that after baby came, everything would go back to the way it was before, so I didn’t really give them much thought.

After my baby was born, things changed dramatically. Suddenly, I was dealing with breastfeeding problems, sleepless nights, and a fussy baby that needed me 24-7. Not to mention those little leaks that I had before baby came - they were still lingering and I found myself changing my own pants almost as often as I was changing my baby. Every sneeze, laugh, and jump, caused me to leak and it really started to get me down. After all, I was in the middle of learning a new job – the most important job of my life, being a mom – and I couldn’t even get my own body to behave appropriately.

I finally talked to my doctor about it and he recommended physical therapy. I didn’t even know that was an option!  But, turns out that strengthening your core and  your pelvic floor muscles can really help control your bladder. This was great, because I wasn’t prepared to undergo surgery (not recommended if you’re planning on having more kids, like I am), and was really hoping to find a more natural option. So this seemed like a perfect fit for me.

My therapist started by reviewing my anatomy and showing me how all my muscles are connected. She also told me that I had diastasis recti, which is when your stomach muscles separate during pregnancy. This can really weaken your core, which affects your pelvic floor muscles too. She showed me exercises to help bring these muscles back together and strenghten my core. After baby, it’s also important to do your kegels to help get your strength back – my therapist told me that this would help me control those little leaks that I had when I placed stress on my bladder (like when I coughed, sneezed, or laughed).

It’s been 6 months since I started physical therapy and I’m happy to say that I’m leak free! I feel stronger and more in control of my body, and, more importantly, I feel better able to focus on and care for my growing baby.

I’m so happy I sought help. It makes me feel empowered, and better prepared to handle future pregnancies and babies.

New moms – don’t keep quite about this. Talk to your doctor and get help. There’s no need to suffer in silence. 

Merrell N., Austin, TX

Bladder Health and Sex

Bladder Health and Sex

Understanding what is normal during sex and what is unusual can be challenging. After all, sex is a very private experience and differs for every person. Generally speaking, there is no reason for your bladder to empty during sex or for you to feel extreme discomfort or experience pain during sex.

As you can guess, the health of your bladder can directly affect your sex life. 

Two common reasons individuals experience pain or discomfort with their bladder during or after sex are: bladder pain syndrome and stress urinary incontinence.

Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS)

Bladder pain syndrome is the continual sensation of pressure or pain on the bladder. This syndrome typically affects women and leaves individuals feeling as if they have to urinate when they don’t have any urine to pass.

Consider making dietary changes and practicing bladder retraining so your bladder begins to hold more urine before experiencing the urge to go.

Relax before engaging in sex to ensure as little stress as possible. Stress can cause flare-ups and trigger discomfort.

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI occurs because of weak pelvic floor muscles and/or a deficient urethral sphincter. This weakness can cause the bladder to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or any body movement that puts pressure on the bladder. If sex is particular jarring, SUI can be affected.

Consider exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and limit caffeine intake. Always empty your bladder before sex.

We hope this peek into how your bladder health can impact sex was helpful. If you have experienced any of the symptoms noted above and haven’t talked to your doctor, it’s time to schedule an appointment. Additionally, we feel it’s important to share your health with your partner if you continue to have sex while experiencing some of these bladder health concerns.

Join us on our forum to talk more and learn how others have dealt with issues like these.