November is Bladder Health Awareness Month and I wanted to share some tips on how to empty your bladder correctly, prevent pelvic floor issues, and manage those pesky leaks.
Approximately 50% of women over the age of 65 have urinary leakage, and urinary leakage is one of the number one reasons for admission to a nursing home later in life! Many postpartum women experience leakage, too. Peeing your pants is not a normal part of being a mother. Diapers are not your destiny! Follow these tips below and work with a Pelvic Floor PT so you can stay dry for all the days to come.
What’s normal and what’s not?
Normal frequency of urination is every 2-4 hours during the day and 0-2 times at night. This can increase during pregnancy or if you are a heavy water drinker, but otherwise you want to try to stay within this range. Often people go pee “just-in-case” thinking they have to keep their bladder empty to avoid leaks. Not so! If you are peeing “just-in-case,” your bladder can shrink and it will feel like you have to pee all of the time. Try to wait for the urge to pee unless you are about to exercise, depart on a plane or long car-ride, or an extended period when a bathroom isn’t available. In addition, certain foods or drinks can increase the urgency to pee: sodas, alcohol, coffee, carbonated drinks, spicy or acidic foods. So if you know you tend to have urgency after having one of these, try to avoid or limit them when you know a bathroom won’t be available.
Hydration is key
It’s so simple but yes, you should stay hydrated to help with bladder function. Often people think if they drink less water they will have to pee less. Incorrect! This can lead to concentrated urine which can irritate your bladder and make you have to go even more. Sip (don’t chug) water throughout the day to keep your urine diluted. Also, avoid bladder irritants including alcohol, sodas, caffeine and any acidic juices as much as possible.
During pregnancy, you need more water to aid constipation, increase blood volume to feed your placenta and growing baby, improve bladder health to decrease risk of urinary tract infections, and help prevent nausea. Immediately after childbirth, hydrate tons. This helps bring your breastmilk supply in, replenish blood loss from birth, and helps with constipation.
Don’t squat or hover
Do you squat or hover over the toilet seat when peeing in public? Welllll, you shouldn’t! Hovering/squatting may prevent your pelvic floor muscles from relaxing, which can lead to incomplete bladder emptying and forcing you to strain and push to pee. Sitting down helps your pelvic muscles relax so your bladder can empty properly. So whip out those Clorox wipes, ladies, or line the seat with tissue paper, and sit down to relax when you pee when out and about.
Don’t do kegels or push while you pee
Don’t do kegels while you are peeing. It messes up the way your muscles and bladder work in harmony. When you pee you should be sitting (don’t hover), relaxed (don’t power pee/strain) and letting your bladder do the work for you while your pelvic floor muscles stay relaxed.
So yes, another no-no is pushing while you pee. No power peeing! When there are people waiting in the bathroom line, or you’ve got to get back to your screaming baby, your tendency may be to pee as fast as you can and push it all out. Don’t! Instead take a few deep breaths and let your bladder empty on its own. Pushing your pee out can weaken your pelvic floor muscles over time and cause pelvic organ prolapse, and even diastasis recti. Your bladder actually does the pushing for you!
That being said, if you need to delay the urge, kegels may be helpful in delaying the urge to void. If you tend to have tense pelvic floor muscles, some deep breathing can help quiet your bladder down and help you hold it until you are ready to go.
If you’re newly postpartum
Your first pee and poop can be pretty memorable after giving birth. Occasionally after having a baby, it can be really hard to pee. Like you are at the hospital and have to pee, but cannot relax your pelvic floor muscles to empty your bladder after a Cesarean or vaginal birth. This can be a result of surgery, trauma, catheter use or muscle tension. Essential oils can play a huge role during labor, birth and recovery. Try putting drops of peppermint oil into the toilet water, sit on the toilet and take some relaxing deep breaths. This aromatherapy can help get your stream started so you can pee, and eventually leave the hospital to go home.
Recovering from birth? Check out our 90-minute online courses for recovery
Let’s talk about leakage
If you leak, know it’s very common, but not something that you have to live with. You may need to work on strengthening those pelvic floor muscles via kegels. A pelvic floor PT will be able to fully assess your individual situation. There are also internal supports like a pessary or over the counter Poise Impressa to help support the bladder and urethra if extra support is needed.
Seek the help of pelvic floor PT
The Vagina Whisperer Pelvic Floor PT Team is Here for You
Sara Reardon PT, DPT, WCS is the owner of NOLA Pelvic Health and founder of The Vagina Whisperer, a resource for online pelvic health education and therapy to help women worldwide with pelvic health conditions. She is a board certified women’s health physical therapist with a special interest in treating pelvic pain and pregnancy and postpartum conditions. She is a mom, wife, Saints fan and wanna be yogi.
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