The Post-Partum Female Athlete and Urinary Incontinence

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What is the Post-Partum Female Athlete?

Many times when I suggest the word, ‘Post-Partum Female Athlete’, many of my ladies say they aren’t athletes! That is not true!

I use the word athlete to ANYONE who gets up in the morning, has a task for the day and goes about accomplishing it. This can be going to work, taking care of the kids at home, going for a walk/jog and if be, training at a high intensity workout facility such as CrossFit, Orange Theory or Burn Boot Camp.

Therefore, we are ALL athletes! We use this term as we like for everyone to compare their own injuries and recovery to a professional athlete.

How does the Post-Partum Female Athlete relate to the Pelvic Floor?

One alarming statistic concerning is how common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction are with the Post-Partum Female Athlete!

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a term used to describe a variety of disorders involving moderate to severe impairment of the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is a sheet of muscles designed to support the abdominal viscera as well as maintain urethral, anal, and vaginal continence. floor dysfunction.

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Pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms are common among all women. A study of almost 2,000 women in the United States revealed that around one in four had at least one symptom or physical finding including urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, or organ prolapse.

A common symptom in the female athlete that we hear about ALL OF THE TIME is urinary incontinence., especially when being active and exercise.

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. It means a person urinates when they do not want to. Control over the urinarys phincter is either lost or weakened. 

You should NOT just expect that since you have had children, then it is normal to have urinary leakage while exercising! The following exercises are ones in which most women describe their symptoms:

Jumping Jacks

Jumping Jacks

Squats

Squats

Running

Running

It has been found from Arau ́jo et al. that 62.2% of long-distance runners reported urinary incontinence. These high rates in athletes are thought to result from an imbalance of con- traction strength of the pelvic floor with increased intra- abdominal pressure during exercise. Additionally, Da Roza et al. found that women who exercised the most demonstrated the highest prevalence of symptoms.

From just these two studies, if you are a runner or exercise most days of the week (>3 days), then you may have more risk of urinary incontinence.

How is Urinary Incontinence Treated?

Comprehensive treatment of pelvic pain should include a multidisciplinary approach, including seeing a physical therapist. Early intervention including both medical and therapeutic management is recommended. We always recommend that you seek advice from your physician and from your Physio.

Physical therapy has been an important treatment for women’s health issues for almost 50 years and has proven effective in treating pelvic pain and urinary incontinence. Physical therapists are trained in soft tissue mobilization of myofascial trigger points and mobilization of the joints in the pelvis and lumbar spine, which can address pelvic pain symptoms, as well as bladder and bowel dysfunction.

Because urinary incontinence is associated with weakness in pelvic floor muscles, exercise involves increasing muscle strength of the pelvic floor specifically but also surrounding musculature. At times, it may involve relaxing muscles that may be hypertonic. Your therapist will be able to determine which is the best approach.

Dr. Danielle Vaughan, a women’s health specialist AND post-partum female athlete, also can address movement reeducation. She instructs patients with pelvic pain on exercises for lumbopelvic stabilization and core strengthening to address any deficits in the kinetic chain that may be caused by your knee or even ankle.

A multimodal approach of pelvic floor muscle exercise and manual therapy has a positive impact on pain, disability, and urinary incontinence in the Post-Partum Female Athlete.

If you are having urinary incontinence while you lift your children, exercise, or even just squat; this doesn’t have to happen! Schedule an evaluation and treatment today to start changing your life.