Haley Summerhays, Urology Nurse Practitioner at Riverton Hospital joined us today to discuss the common reasons why women may see a urologist after pregnancy.
After pregnancy, many women find their muscles have been stretched out, and not just their abdominal muscles, but the muscles that control the bladder and flow of urine.
Haley mentioned that 40% of women in the United States live with overactive bladder (OAB) symptoms. The real number of people with OAB is most likely much larger. That’s because many people living with OAB don’t ask for help.
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common condition that affects millions of Americans. Overactive bladder isn’t a disease. It’s the name of a group of urinary symptoms. The most common symptom of OAB is a sudden urge to urinate that you can’t control. Some people will leak urine when they feel the urge. Leaking urine is called “incontinence.” Having to go to the bathroom many times during the day and night is another symptom of OAB.
There is another common bladder problem called stress urinary incontinence (SUI), which is different from OAB. People with SUI leak urine while sneezing, laughing or doing other physical activities.
About 33 million Americans have overactive bladder. As many as 30% of men and 40% of women in the United States live with OAB symptoms. But the real number of people with OAB is most likely much larger. That’s because many people living with OAB don’t ask for help. Some are embarrassed. They don’t know how to talk to their health care provider about their symptoms. Other people don’t ask for help because they think there aren’t any treatments for OAB.
Risk factors for overactive bladder and stress incontinence in women:
- Weight gain
- Chronic constipation
Where are the pelvic floor muscles?
The pelvic floor muscles are like a ‘sling’ from the front of the pelvis back to the tailbone. These muscles support the pelvis and its internal organs and openings. They’re the muscles you use to stop urination midstream.
Pelvic floor disorders are especially common if you’ve given birth more than once or to twins or multiples. Utah’s high birthrate means many Utah women are in this category.
Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Leaking urine when you cough, sneeze or do exercise that involves running or sudden movement
- Urgent urination with or without leakage
- Difficulty emptying bladder
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Feeling like your bladder has dropped
Many women accept these issues as normal and don’t realize there are therapies and treatment that can help. The important thing is to talk to your doctor and get an assessment that will help your specific condition. Therapies and treatment can help women with overactive bladder or stress incontinence.
Types of treatment available for stress incontinence and overactive bladder include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Pelvic floor physical therapy, including Kegel exercises
- In-office procedures
- Pelvic floor physical therapy, most effective when started early.
According to medical studies, pelvic floor muscle training combined with bladder training effectively resolves urinary incontinence for most women. Otherwise, there are surgical options that may help. Kegels and therapy are most effective when started early.
Kegel exercises are basically contracting and releasing the pelvic floor muscles. Your doctor can explain how to do them correctly. See a urologist to find out what type of treatment will help you most.
One way to help reduce urinary leakage is to exhale before you exert. If you are doing exercises like squats or lunges or lifting something heavy like your child, you should try to exhale before you exert. This will decrease the pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. When you exhale, your pelvic floor muscles contract.
For more information, visit intermountainhealthcare.org.
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