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How did I get stress incontinence?

Why me?

Stress incontinence is very, very common. It is widely accepted that 50% women will experience stress incontinence in their lifetime; as many as 80-90 % will experience it to some degree.

As you can see, you're not alone!

Physical causes

Stress incontinence is the result of a weakened pelvic floor.

Over time, your pelvic floor is exposed to a number of factors that can leave their mark, either temporarily or permanently. If you don't take positive action to keep your pelvic floor in shape, like the rest of your body, over time it will weaken and become less able to do its job effectively.

Physical factors that contribute to pelvic floor weakness include:

Pregancy

During pregnancy there are hormonal changes in your system that make the whole pelvic ring a little less stable. They are designed to soften your pelvic floor muscles to allow a baby to be carried and delivered through the pelvic ring, but they are not specific enough; they make everything a bit looser, a bit less stable, including the trampoline of muscles that supports your pelvic ring.

Childbirth

The trauma of delivering babies puts an enormous strain on your pelvic floor that can cause significant damange. Your body will usually recover from this trauma on its own, but if that recovery is less than perfect, and it often is, it can lead to long term weakness.

BUT BUT BUT please note, people who have a C-section get exactly the same problems with their pelvic floor - it is carrying the baby as much as delivering the baby that leads to overload on the pelvic floor.

Menopause

We are back to those same hormones. Menopause is a period of change in your hormones and, just like they do during pregnancy, they soften the muscle tone and can affect how effectively you can hold your urethra tube closed. 

Age

As we age, all of our muscles lose strength and tautness naturally every year. Unless we exercise them regularly to keep them fit, they will weaken by a significant amount every year. Your pelvic floor muscles are no exception, you are simply less aware of their decline, as you cannot see them.

Obesity

Extra weight puts extra pressue on your abdominal core and, so, onto your pelvic floor.

Societal causes - the "taboo factor"

In addition to the physical causes, there is one overriding reason for the epidemic of stress incontinence that we see today. And this is that it is a secret problem. Society has decided that it should not be talked about, that it is "taboo".

Why is this such a large factor? Because almost all stress incontinence is completely avoidable, if you take simple steps to prevent it from happening in the first place. If it was talked about, like general health or fitness, everyone did pelvic floor exercises regularly and effectively, then stress incontinence would be a rare condition.

So, once you've understood what this is all about, please, please, please talk about it. Then you can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

NEXT - What can I do about my stress incontinence?