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One in three women who’ve ever had a baby will wet themselves.

Kate Winslet includes herself in this statistic, recently announcing it somewhat publicly last month on the Graham Norton Show, 33.17 minutes into the show. Even Kris Jenner, matriarch of the Kardashian clan, admits to having incontinence, as reported on news24.com.

There are 4.8 million (one in four) Australian adults with some form of incontinence – a condition more prevalent than asthma (2 million), arthritis (3.1 million) and anxiety disorders (2.3 million). Women make up 80 per cent of Australians affected, with pregnancy and childbirth significant risk factors.

Women, particularly younger women affected by incontinence, are at a higher risk of depression compared to other women, with recent research in Canada backing up a 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide.

Continence Foundation of Australia CEO Rowan Cockerell said that young women were also at risk of incontinence.

“Half of all women with incontinence are under 50, and one in three women who’ve ever had a baby will be affected,” Cockerell said.

She said incontinence should never be ignored or accepted as normal.

“Incontinence has far-reaching impacts and we know it can negatively affect a person’s work, social and sexual relationships. It is associated with depression, particularly in younger women.”

She said that incontinence should never be accepted as normal or inevitable, and should never be ignored.

“Incontinence is entirely preventable and treatable in the majority of cases. The key to preventing or better managing incontinence comes down to protecting and strengthening the pelvic floor and adopting a few healthy lifestyle habits,” she said.

The Continence Foundation recommends these five healthy habits to promote bladder and bowel health:

1. Eat well and include at least 30 g of fibre daily

Eat a balanced, fibre-rich diet and remember, it’s normal to empty your bowel anywhere between three times a week to three times a day. Avoid constipation, which is another major cause of incontinence. (An overfull bowel takes up space in the abdomen and restricts the bladder’s volume capacity, while straining on the toilet stretches and weakens the pelvic floor.)

2. Consume about 1.5 -2 litres of fluid daily, limiting caffeine and fizzy drinks

Drink to satisfy your thirst, not to meet an arbitrary volume. A good indicator is the colour of your urine, which should be straw coloured, and you should only have to urinate between four and six times a day. (If you overfill your bladder you risk accidental leakage, and if you drink insufficient fluids your urine becomes concentrated, which irritates the bladder and causes it to empty more often.

3. Exercise regularly

Aim for about 30 minutes of exercise a day and remember, walking is great exercise. Being overweight is another significant risk factor for incontinence.

4. Keep your pelvic floor toned

Men and women should do their pelvic floor exercises daily. Many people struggle to follow written instructions, so the Continence Foundation of Australia has developed an excellent instructional video with physiotherapist and fitness trainer Shira Kramer (www.continence.org.au/pages/pelvic-floor-women.html)

Speak to a continence nurse or physiotherapist if you’re still not sure how to do them properly, or phone the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66, who can provide confidential advice and referrals to your nearest continence service.

5. Practise good toilet habits

Empty your bowel when you get a strong urge and avoid ‘holding on’, which risks constipation. Respond as soon as you feel the gastrocolic refIex, which is the mass movement of contents in the bowel that occurs about 20 minutes after a meal, most strongly felt after breakfast.

Another tip; whenever you sit on the toilet, lean forward with your feet supported on a footstool so your knees are higher than your hips, as this straightens out the colon.

The Continence Foundation has produced some excellent, free apps, both downloadable at the App Store or Google Play:

For more information, confidential advice and to find out more about the many free resources available from the Continence Foundation, including The Pregnancy Guide booklet and the apps, visit continence.org.au or phone the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.

Do you strengthen your pelvic floor by doing exercises? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • A very informative article, thank you.

    Reply

  • I’m always thankful for articles like these as they remind me to do my pelvic floor exercises. My biggest problem is I forget.

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  • I became aware I was modifying my activities like avoiding skipping and bouncing on the trampoline with the kids ‘just in case’. It was at that point I realised I was in those statistics and went back to the dreaded pelvic floor exercises and other core strength exercises. I wish the hospital had pushed the importance of pelvic floor exercises when my oldest kids arrived. Very glad when a physio visited with my last baby.


    • Yes, pregnancy and childbirth are big risk factors. Good job the physio caught you in time!

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  • some great and helpful hints here thanku, will be giving these tips to my daughter

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  • I didn’t but I am right now. I find when I sneeze or laugh hysterically that I wet my pants just a little. Not ideal and has become a bit of a family joke!


    • Yes it may be funny, but not if it deteriorates, as it inevitably will if you don’t address it now. You really need to try do your pelvic floor exercises every day. If it gets better, great. If not, get it checked out by a continence nurse of physio (Helpline freecall 1800 33 00 66 is a great first port of call).

    Reply

  • Think indeed most people experiencing this found it embarrassing and because of that not share about it and have no idea how common it is….


    • It’s quite amazing though, once you broach the subject with a female friend, how many women are in the same boat! So much help available (1800 33 00 66 Helpline for example!)

    Reply

  • Unfortunately now and again all those tips which I have done for years just don’t help. Been to the Continence nurse and can’t go any further. It annoys me, but doesn’t depress me – I just have to make sure I have taken steps so it won’t embarrass me. Do hope others follow all those steps diligently though as I am the 1 in 100 it no longer helps – perhaps having 6 pregnancies is the reason!

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  • The app you a suggested looks quite good and has heaps of different exercise, thanks.

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  • These are great tips! I hadn’t realised the number was so high.

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  • All the above tips are great for those who are affected by incontinence and also for those who are not.


    • That’s right: healthy bladder and bowel habits equates to just healthy lifestyle

    Reply

  • I had no idea it was this common. It is certainly an issue that most women would be embarrassed to discuss but given it’s so common it really should be discussed more openly.

    Reply

  • Unfortunately this is something that isn’t spoken about enough and many women suffer in thinking they are unusual/all alone in this problem.


    • Which is why it’s great when women like Kate Winslet speak up about it so openly – as did the other two women on the same show.

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  • Some of the ideas in this article are great and will have to give them a go. I never knew it was as i in three that it would happen to..

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  • I’ll have to start doing my pelvic floor exercises. 1 in 3 women wow

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  • I had no idea that so many people suffered from incontinence. I never did. We had a physio at the hospital showing us how to strengthen pelvic floor before we could go home with our babies

    Reply

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