We are so thankful to our partner Dr. Gregory Buford for providing this sponsored post.
Worried you won’t be able to stop yourself from leaking a little each time you sneeze? Tired of stressing in yoga class knowing you’ll wet yourself if you cough? Is the joy of a good belly laugh ruined by having to immediately run to the bathroom? We know the feeling.
Why can’t I control my bladder like I used to?
Urinary stress incontinence, or the unintentional loss of bladder control, is quite common among women over 40 and moms who delivered their children vaginally. It is typically the result of weakened muscles in the vaginal floor, which support the bladder, and lax vaginal tissues. Like the rest of your body, your vulva, vagina, and supporting muscles are susceptible to the aging process; hormonal changes and childbirth also contribute to loss of tone in these areas. And it’s not just bladder control that is affected: these changes can decrease pleasurable sensations during sex and cause difficulty orgasming.
But just because these problems are common doesn’t mean that you have to live with them. Thanks to a greater understanding of what causes these issues and advancements in technology, women now have a number of solutions available to them.
Step one: Learn more about your body & how it changes
The best way to know when something is different or wrong with your body is to know what is normal for you. It may feel a little awkward, but it’s important to understand your “inner workings” and be familiar with how things look, feel, and even smell.
The Girlfriend’s Guide to the Vagina is a great place to start. This fun eBook offers up-to-date info about your anatomy, what happens as you get older, and what is or isn’t normal and healthy. The Guide explains how the vagina changes over time, early intervention techniques, and what options are available to help improve incontinence once it starts.
Here are a few things to know:
Exercising vaginal muscles can help mild incontinence.
When you first notice that you’re starting to leak urine in certain situations or that intercourse isn’t quite as pleasurable as it once was, early intervention might help prevent the condition from worsening. Just like your abs or biceps, your vaginal muscles benefit from regular exercise, which helps keep them strong and toned. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Kegel exercises are a great way to strengthen vaginal muscles using only your own body. Once you get the hang of it, it is an easy activity that can be done virtually anywhere. Kegels engage the same muscles you use when you stop and start the flow of urine; once you’ve identified these muscles, find a comfortable position. Start by tightening your pelvic floor muscles for five seconds and then relaxing for five seconds. Repeat a few times per session. As you continue your routine, increase the length of time you contract the muscles.
- There are a number of tools on the market that aid you in strengthening pelvic floor muscles, such as yoni balls, Ben Wa balls, and even “wearable tech” devices that sync up with your smart phone! These devices can take your vaginal exercise routine up a notch from the traditional kegels, further improving bladder control (and orgasms).
Learning about treatment options from your doctor
If you find that do-it-yourself remedies just aren’t working, it may be time to speak with your physician. Together, you can explore treatment options to determine which is the best for you and your personal needs.
The good news is you’ll be much less likely to need surgery than in the past, when surgical procedures like a bladder sling or mesh were often recommended to provide long-lasting relief. The invasiveness and extended downtime of these options caused many women to avoid considering treatment and suffer in silence. Today, your doctor is much more likely to recommend a minimally invasive or non-surgical option, such as ThermiVa®.
Discussing vaginal health may feel embarrassing, but remember that doctors hear about these issues all the time and can suggest real solutions. It’s absolutely worth getting over any shyness to get the help you need to feel more happy, healthy, and confident.