Incontinence - Are we treating the symptom or addressing the cause?

A friend recently sent me a photo of this magazine advertisement for Poise bladder leak pad, intrigued by the fact that there’s a national ad campaign targeted at young moms with incontinence. I love that Poise is bringing a common, and often taboo, problem out into the open AND providing innovative, new solutions to help women avoid embarrassing moments of bladder leakage.  However, I also see this as yet another example of our healthcare system failing to meet the true needs of women’s health.

We know that millions of people worldwide are afflicted with urinary incontinence and that it’s twice as prevalent among women than men. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/urinary-incontinence  While actual statistics vary greatly across studies due to methodological and cultural differences, it is estimated that 1 in 4 adult women in the U.S. experience some form of urinary incontinence. The changes that occur throughout pregnancy and delivery impact the muscles and nerves that support and control the bladder.  However, these problems can, and should, resolve within 6-8 weeks after delivery.  If they don’t, there are things you can do about it!

Some might recommend kegel exercises, weight loss, drinking less caffeine, dietary changes to prevent constipation, etc.  All of these things are worth considering but rather than just haphazardly experimenting after the problem presents, what if we had a comprehensive, holistic approach to postnatal rehabilitation that restored the deep core and potentially prevented incontinence from ever being an issue in the first place? As is the case with so many aspects of our current healthcare system, we are treating the symptom rather than looking to address the root cause of the problem.

Standard postnatal care in the US for a normal, vaginal delivery consists of a 6 week post-delivery appointment with your OBGYN. It may or may not include an exam, questions to assess for postpartum depression and information about birth control.  The appointment usually lasts about 20  and, assuming there are no major concerns, you are typically cleared to resume normal activity. That’s it!  There are generally no resources or information about things you should or shouldn't do.  For the most part, you’re on your own…with a baby, maybe even another few kids, and a body that just went through a major 9-month transformation, culminating in a miraculous, albeit, physically taxing and altering delivery.  Even though it’s a natural process, it seems rational to think that it should require some rehabilitation in order to restore optimal form and function.  Call me crazy, but if an arthroscopic knee surgery qualifies for physical rehabilitation, one would think that a total-body-morphing, new-life -creating, 9-month-long event might deserve the same.

There are a couple simple things we can do to begin the healing process after a delivery:

1. Targeted breath work can help restore coordination and integration of the deep core, including the pelvic floor.

2. Simple, functional postures can be practiced throughout the day and don't require additional hours at the gym.

The body wants to heal and regain proper function.  We just need to listen to it’s desire and feed it with nourishing movement and breath.  Why wait for symptoms to reveal themselves? Let’s help new mamas restore their core and re-discover their strong.  Check out a GoulaFIT workshop for more information and stay tuned for upcoming online programs!

Women need time and rehabilitation to properly restore their bodies after a pregnancy and delivery.  Let’s advocate for better paid time off policies and effective and efficient information and resources on how to rehabilitate.  Let’s change the momversation from a comparative/competitive one that is striving to do more in less time, to one that supports each other in our individual pursuits and encourages time, healing and restoration. 

When we care for new moms, we prevent a future of broken moms and create a healthier environment for kids and families!

 #changethemomversation, #restoreyourcore, #pelvicfloor, #breathmatters, #integrationiskey

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