You might want to consider making pelvic floor exercises part of your daily routine, if you haven't done so already.
A recent federal report indicates that the exercises -- sometimes called Kegels -- are an effective way to stop urinary incontinence.
Consider that urinary incontinence is quite common, affecting about a quarter of young women and more than half of women in middleage and beyond. It can come and go throughout your life, but it might be more pronounced after childbirth or in the menopausal years.
The condition has many causes, but two of its better-known forms are stress incontinence and urgency incontinence. Stress incontinence has to do with those little urine leaks after a sneeze or cough or exercise.
Urgency incontinence is an involuntary loss of control that compels an immediate trip to the bathroom. Both types often stem from weak pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, uterus and other organs.
The report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was issued in April 2012 and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
According to the AHRQ press release, pelvic muscle floor training is effective for treating adult women with urinary incontinence without risk of side effects.
"Urinary incontinence can affect women in a variety of ways, including physically, psychologically and socially – and some of these impacts can be severe," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy. "This new report will help women and their clinicians work together to find the best treatment option based on each patient's individual circumstances."
In comparing treatments for urinary incontinence, the researchers for AHRQ analyzed pelvic floor exercises similar to Kegels to see how well they worked in combination with bladder training. Other treatments also were analyzed.
The study concluded:
The combination of pelvic muscle and bladder training improved the condition in cases of mixed incontinence, involving both stress and urgency incontinence.
Estrogen was effective in treating stress incontinence, but came with side effects.
The antidepressant duloxetine was not found to be effective and carried a high risk of side effects.
With some drugs for urinary incontinence, women often discontinued their use because of bothersome side effects.
You can find details on the study at http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/
Your search for solutions to urinary incontinence might lead you not only to pelvic floor exercises and drug therapies, but also to biofeedback sessions, nerve stimulation devices, herbal remedies and even surgery. In any case, it's an awkward and sometimes debilitating problem, although not untreatable.
Kegels and similar exercises involve contracting the muscles around the vagina, as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine. You have to hold the contraction for several seconds to get the benefits, and you have to do the exercises on a regular basis.
If you want to get going with pelvic floor exercises and are the kind of person who likes to fill out food and activity journals, then you might want to download a chart from womensbladderhealth.com.
It gives you a way to record the number of contractions you do during each daily exercise set. The website also gives clear instructions for doing Kegels.
Pilates classes are another idea for training in pelvic floor exercises, although Pilates moves alone might not help urinary incontinence. Try Pilates moves for overall strengthening of core muscles and use them in conjunction with pelvic floor exercises.
Another possibility for building Kegels into your day involves your smartphone or tablet computer. Yes, there's an app for it. Just check the app store for your particular device.
"Muscle Training Effective in Treating Urinary Incontinence for Women." Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality press release. Web. 9 May 2012. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2012/muscleuipr.htm
"Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegel's)." Women'sBladderHealth.com, PDF download. Web. 9 May 2012. http://www.womensbladderhealth.com/pdf/pelvicfloorexercises.pdf
Ogle, Marguerite. "The Pelvic Floor Muscles." About.com/Pilates. Web. 9 May 2012.
"Urinary Incontinence in Women." National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Web. 9 May 2012. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/uiwomen/index.aspx
Reviewed May 9, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith