Have you ever noticed a little accidental leakage when you head to the restroom or the gym? While many are embarrassed to admit it, urinary incontinence is more common than you might think. In fact, a recent study found that 10.3 percent of women between the ages of 19 and 30 suffer from urinary incontinence.
The study, which was published in the Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery journal, was based on questionnaire data from women enrolled at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. The researchers surveyed 1,092 women with a mean age of 23.5. The purpose of the study was to determine the prevalence and awareness of young women’s understanding of pelvic floor disorders in order to determine prevention strategies. They discovered that of all the women surveyed, women between the ages of 25 and 30 had the most awareness and understanding of pelvic-floor disorders.
So what is urinary incontinence?
There are two different types of UI: urge and stress. Urge incontinence is when your bladder empties before you are over a toilet, while stress is when if even a small amount of pressure is applied to your bladder, urine leaks out. For some people, something as small as sneezing or laughing can cause some leakage.
Oftentimes, urinary incontinence happens during exercise. In fact, UI affects many female athletes.
“In my world, as a sports medicine physician who treats mostly female athletes, pelvic-floor dysfunction is an epidemic,” says Dr. Kara Vormittag, a sports medicine physician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
“The background behind why pelvic floor disorders begin is not completely understood, but it is said to have something to do with anterior pelvic tilt,” explains Dr. Vormittag. “It’s also a lot of overload; nowadays, athletes are training harder for longer, and they train their muscles to keep up with that, but not always the pelvic floor muscles. Another big culprit is constipation.”
It’s important to remember that your core muscles go deeper that you think, and you need to be keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong and in shape. Doing this can help to prevent urinary incontinence and also injury from exercise and sports. Dr. Vormittag refers to the pelvic floor as the “forgotten core muscles.”
Many people have heard that doing exercises like Kegels can help to prevent and treat pelvic floor disorders, which it true, if done correctly. “The first step to treating a pelvic floor disorder would be to report it to your primary care physician,” says Dr. Vormittag. “Then, finding a qualified pelvic floor therapist is the most important thing you can do, so they can help guide you on how to strengthen those muscles.”
“In female athletes, pelvic floor disorders can lead to many issues, the most common one being urinary incontinence,” according to Dr. Vormittag. “Other than urinary incontinence, pelvic floor disorders can cause sexual discomfort and pain during sex.”
Yet, many young adult females don’t feel comfortable bringing this topic up initially. “If your primary care doctor doesn’t ask you if you are experiencing any of these issues, don’t be embarrassed to bring it up and to talk about it,” recommends Dr. Vormittag. “There is no reason to suffer in silence when treatment options are available.”