The short answer is NO.
It is extremely common for women to leak with any activity that creates increased abdominal pressure such as coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise. In fact the stats say between 30-50% of women who have had kids will experience some urinary incontinence (leaking urine). Because it is so common, lots of women think its just part of motherhood and put up with it.
What mums aren’t aware of is there are lots of things that can be done to improve symptoms and you shouldn’t have to just put up with it or modify your lifestyle. This is where a women’s health physio comes in. These are physios trained to assess and treat all types of leakage and help women to improve symptoms and get back to activities they have been avoiding because of leaking.
One of the main reasons women leak is due to the pelvic floor muscles and their role in supporting the bladder when abdominal force in placed upon the bladder (like coughing and exercise). The problem could be the muscles are not strong enough, don’t have enough endurance or the muscles contract at the wrong time. The same principle as any problems with any other muscle in our bodies (and if you had a similar issue with your calf you would like see a physio!).
For example if you accidentally wee when you cough, is it because the muscles are not strong enough to support the bladder during the cough, or is it that the muscles have forgotten to switch on before the cough the support the bladder. Or when you leak at the end of a run, is it that the muscles have fatigued and are too tired to support the bladder anymore.
It is important to find out what is the main problem is and then the pelvic floor exercises can be tailored to fit the problem. Again this is where a women’s health physio can really help.
The research shows that pelvic floor exercises really work and women get a significant improvement in symptoms. However, the exercises need to be done correctly, consistency and need to be hard enough to really work that pelvic floor (if exercises are not challenging enough you won’t get the strength gains). This is where lots of us go wrong, doing the wrong technique or just a few exercises here and there. The research also suggests that when exercises are done in a supervised setting (in a physio session or in a group class etc) that people get the best results.
It is important to understand that sometimes the problem is not just pelvic floor muscle dysfunction but related to the connective tissue also. The pelvic floor is made up of muscle and a thick cling film like structure called fascia. This fascia can be damaged during labor and hence reduce the support of the bladder, bower and vagina and contribute to leaking symptoms. Whilst pelvic floor muscle training may help symptoms in these cases, women may need some further management or referral to see a gynae specialist. Again, a physio can help work out if this is the case and what to do next.
So the moral of the story is, if you do leak with running, sneezing, coughing etc – YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH IT. The first step is to see a physio and make a plan of what to do. Believe me you will not regret it, and it may just change your life.