What Exactly Is… Incontinence?


Michelle October |

Photography by Bryan Derballa

Ever started giggling at something really funny – only to wet yourself a little? Or flowed too hard after lifting heavy? Yep – that’s incontinence, and it comes in many shapes and sizes.

Here’s the complete breakdown.

What Is It? 

Incontinence, or involuntary urination, is the leakage of your urine – and it’s super common. In fact, it’s a problem for lots of women who’ve damaged their pelvic floor during childbirth. “Women are being crippled, but there is little being done about it,” he said. “In most countries in Africa, if there are one or two urogynaecological specialists that is a lot,” says Dr Peter de Jong, a Cape Town urogynaecologist. Dr Catherine Matthews, a specialist in urogynecology and pelvic reconstructive surgery, says it’s most common in women who’ve given birth, but even if you’re childless, you can experience incontinence. It could be caused by two factors: your bladder and your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor, a group of muscles and ligaments that sit at the base of your abdomen, can become weaker over time – and that weakness leads to leakages when you’re active, like running or jumping. But it could also be the case of an irritated bladder. Either way, don’t brush it off as not serious or embarrassing, says Matthews. “If a woman has to stop doing the thing she loves because of incontinence, it’s a big enough problem,” she explains.

Read More: What’s Your Pee Problem? 

What’s The Cause? 

There are a few things that make your sneeze more uncomfortable, like stress, or even foods that irritate the bladder:

Coffee
Alcohol
Spices
Acidic foods

But there are also bigger things that weaken your pelvic floor, causing incontinence:

Giving birth to a baby larger than four kilograms
Abnormal positioning of the baby in the womb
Ageing
Tears of the pelvic floor
Smoking
Obesity

Read More: Are You Doing Kegels Wrong?

Solutions 

Not all is lost! Laugh with confidence with these nifty tricks:

Lifestyle changes.  Exercise strengthens your pelvic floor muscles, while avoiding bladder-irritating foods for a while eases things. Matthews recommends Pilates – it strengthens your core, which helps your pelvic floor.

Work it out Get a one-up by doing muscle-activating exercises specifically for your pelvic floor, like kegels. Insert two fingers in your vagina and try to suck your fingers upward, using your kegels. Try and pull in and up – you shouldn’t be tightening your butt or thighs: the action happens inside.

Still lost? Read this.

Watch ON: Bladder Issues Health Health Advice