They’re easy, free, and completely discreet, but most women of all ages overlook the most effective way to prevent, treat, manage, and even cure incontinence.
According to a survey of more than 15,000 Australian women, less than two in 10 (17.6%) do their pelvic floor exercises daily, despite incontinence affecting one in three women who have had a baby.
And while incontinence can certainly affect men, 80 percent of those who report living with incontinence are women.
As Women’s Health Week approaches Monday, September 5-11, the Continence Foundation of Australia would like to remind women of all ages that there is a lot they can do to reduce their risk of incontinence.
And it’s not just about older women or mothers.
A 2018 Australian study found that one in three netballers suffer from incontinence, and many women may stop exercising after giving birth due to incontinence. Shan Morrison, a physiotherapist specializing in women’s, men’s and pelvic health, says: “I see many women who have reduced their engagement in exercise and other pleasurable activities and have withdrawn from life physically. , emotionally, socially and sexually.”
“Incontinence is preventable and treatable in the majority of cases,” says Continence Foundation of Australia CEO Rowan Cockerell. “The key to preventing or better managing incontinence lies in protecting and strengthening the pelvic floor and adopting a few healthy lifestyle habits.”
Besides pregnancy and childbirth, there are several risk factors for developing incontinence. These include age, being overweight, smoking, menopause, conditions such as diabetes, and injury and surgery to the bladder and/or pelvis.
Leaks while sneezing, coughing, or exercising can hold young women back, but can also be easily treated. The Go Against the Flow website is specifically designed for young women; to find out more visit www.goagainsttheflow.org.au
Ms Cockerell said pelvic floor exercises can be done anywhere, anytime. “You can do them on the bus, at your desk, while you’re waiting in line for a coffee, and no one will even know you’re doing them,” she said.
And the exercises don’t just help with continence. They can also improve sexual function.
Information on how to perform pelvic floor exercises correctly can be found on the Pelvic Floor First website at pelvicfloorfirst.org.au
“The other important thing to remember is that there is help available,” Ms Cockerell said. “We have a national continence helpline staffed by nurse continence specialists, as well as specific sections on our website with simple instructions on how to perform pelvic floor exercises and links to resources designed for young women.”
The Continence Foundation was created to promote healthy bladder and bowel control and to reduce the stigma and restrictions of all aspects of incontinence throughout life.
Visit continence.org.au for information, including videos, on how to do pelvic floor exercises, as well as additional support and treatment options.
Call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday.