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Don't let stress incontinence keep you from working out

Millions of women experience urinary stress incontinence, which is the involuntary leaking of urine with coughing, laughing, sneezing and exercising. Women experiencing stress incontinence may voluntarily, or without even realizing it, decrease the intensity of their workouts or stop working out altogether. Having incontinence does not mean that you have to live a less active lifestyle. There are several options to effectively treat incontinence that can get you back in the gym or out on the pavement. 

Before we discuss treatment options, let's discuss what causes incontinence. The most commonly discussed cause for incontinence is having children, but that's not the only factor that increases the chance of developing incontinence. Additional factors include, but are not limited to, family history, smoking and obesity. While you can't change your genetics, you can quit smoking and make sure that you maintain a healthy weight. Making these lifestyle changes, along with regularly doing kegel exercises (pelvic floor exercises) can help prevent or improve incontinence.

If you think you might have stress incontinence, the first step is to make an appointment with your gynecologist, internal medicine or family practice doctor to discuss your options. In the initial appointment, a diagnosis can often be made by discussing medical history, performing a physical exam and doing a urinalysis to rule out an infection. 

There are a few different options for treatment:

  • A non-surgical option is physical therapy, which is like having a personal trainer for your pelvic floor. Many women see improvements by doing physical therapy alone.
  • In certain cases, a woman can be fitted in the clinic for a FemSoft device to be used when working out. This is not a long-term solution for most women, but for those who are not done childbearing, it is a great option.
  • If you and your doctor determined that surgery is the best option for you, a simple same-day surgery can be performed to insert a mid-urethral sling. This is a common surgery that has been used since 1995 with excellent results worldwide.

I tell my patients that incontinence is not normal, but it's very common, so there's nothing to be embarrassed about. If stress incontinence is severe enough that it's affecting your lifestyle, get evaluated and your doctor will get you back to your favorite activities.

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