I can’t remember when it started but it was undeniable and unstoppable. I would sneeze and simultaneously pee my pants. I chalked it up to having had two kids and just slapped on a panty liner and went about my day. The OB/GYN said, “Kerry, you’ve got low muscle tone and you should really start practicing Kegels“. So I would diligently practice Kegels all the way home from the doctor’s office and then promptly forget until my next visit or my next sneeze. Either way, the Kegels didn’t improve my situation. Then it got worse, mind you it was years later, but it got worse. Sneezing, laughing, coughing, jumping, running…. all led to a leak. I graduated from regular panty liners to the liners specific for urinary incontinence. I also began to notice it would be worse at different times of the month which led me to think the worsening of symptoms was hormone related. Later I would learn that the ebbing and flowing of estrogen affects pelvic floor muscle tone and can be a factor in urinary incontinence. So then, I surmised that it was because I was getting closer to 40.
Fast forward to 3 years ago when it got way worse. The most memorable incident was when, one evening after several beers, my friends and I began a game of Cards Against Humanity. Now, I must pause here to warn you about this game, if you aren’t already familiar. It is irreverent, embarrassing and hysterical! Don’t play it with people you aren’t really, really comfortable talking about ANY subject on earth with. Ok, so back to the story: I don’t remember the card in question but I just remember laughing so hard I completely pee’d my pants, not like the little panty liner amount I was used to but a full on deluge. My seat cushion was even wet! If anyone noticed, they were polite enough not to say anything (which is pretty surprising considering the lack of inhibition during the game). So I excused myself to the bathroom (and pushed my chair in) but I really went to change my pants and double up on the Poise Pads.
A short time later I felt pressure “down there”, so much so I reached down to check it out. To my horror, it felt like my insides were coming out. Either that or I thought I had found a giant tumor. I was completely freaked out. It still took a few weeks for me to finally go to the OB/GYN where I was quickly diagnosed with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction with Uterine Prolapse. Yep, just what it sounds like, my uterus was falling down. Gratefully, the OB/GYN nurse was knowledgeable about prolapse and gave me a referral to a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist (FYI, every one around the world except the U.S. calls Physical Therapists, Physiotherapists). I would later find out that I also had other organs prolapsing when I went to a Urogynecologist for further consultation on surgical options.
The treatment from the PF physio was quite surprising. I thought it was going to be all about the illusive Kegel but I was wrong. First, I learned I was Kegeling incorrectly. I also learned Kegels aren’t the solution for every incontinence problem.
The physio, Laurie, used a variety of methods to help with both my issues, the incontinence and the prolapse. She was kind and easy to talk to which was a good thing because PF PT (Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy) includes some pretty intimate measures, mine included a electromyograph (EMG) perineometer and E-Stim device. She sent me back to the OB/GYN to get fitted for a pessary, which is a medical device to support the pelvic floor organs and ordered me an E-stim device to use at home on a daily basis. We worked on posture, breathing and lifestyle habits that would significantly improve my incontinence symptoms. These lifestyle changes vary with each person’s individual circumstances and can include reducing bladder irritants like caffeinated drinks, alcohol (yes, beer it’s all your fault!) and spicy foods. Many women also find that reducing excess weight by 5-10% of one’s body weight can be a major help in decreasing symptoms. I also learned that one’s pooping habits greatly affect urinary incontinence. Just by improving diet to eliminate constipation you can effectively stop straining, which can lead to weakened pelvic floor muscles.
This is just the beginning of the story. This journey brought me to surgical intervention. I’ll share about the why, the how and my recovery on a future blog post. Stay tuned!
About the author:
Kerry Ann Madden used to be known for peeing her pants whilst jumping, doing heavy squats with 100lbs on her back, coughing, sneezing and laughing hysterically (but not all at the same time). Gratefully, she sought help and is now living Poise-Free. She is the mom of 2 remarkable young women and wife of an amazingly supportive husband. She is an avid long distance runner and weight lifter.
Professionally Kerry is a Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist with certifications from NASM, TRX, Fasical Fitness, STOTT Pilates and CFSC.