If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve had this experience (or something very similar): You’re going about your workout because you’re trying your best to stay active and healthy. But while either running, stretching, or mid-situp, you have a small leak. It might not be much – sometimes just a few drops, and other times its enough to soak through your pants or shorts. While it’s embarrassing, these leaks are fairly common for women to experience with around 1 in 3 women suffering from the medical term Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) in their lives. Stress incontinence occurs in women for a number of reasons ranging from genetic factors to childbirth to surgery. All causes tie back, however, to stress incontinence being related to weakened pelvic floor muscles, nerves, and tissue. Exercising, unfortunately, can cause some women to not only develop light bladder leaks over the years, but can also turn into a trigger for light leaks during exercise itself.
How Can Exercise Cause My Light Leaks?
Most women report bladder leaks after having children, even years later. But collegiate and high school athlete women who have never been pregnant were reporting leaks as well. Why? Running, jumping, dancing, or any other sort of physical activity that repeatedly puts strain or impact on your pelvic floor could cause you to experience light leaks later in life. According to one study, in fact, nearly 40% of female athlete runners reported bladder leaks associated with SUI. Another study showed that compared to non-dancers, around 22% of females that danced experienced urinary incontinence. It is important to note that this study does account for the type of dance (hip hop had the highest reported amount of dancers experiencing leaks) as well as the dancer’s BMI (Body Mass Index). In another recent study, it was found that around 41% of female powerlifters had experienced some sort of incontinence, and about 37% of them currently experienced leaks during training, competition, or maximum effort lifts. The study had varying age groups, body weight categories, and competition grade subjects, but the index for which the results were measured showed that they were not significantly different. Basically, the female lifters were experiencing leaks regardless of their weight, age, or how much they were lifting. Women are already more likely than their male counterparts to develop bladder leaks due to the physical structure of the urethra, hormonal changes, and trauma that can be experienced during childbirth. Women athletes, whether at a professional or recreational level, are also more likely to develop symptoms due to the repeated impact that training puts on the pelvic floor muscles and nerves.
How Workouts Become a Trigger
Once SUI has developed in a woman, it seems like almost anything can trigger a leak (depending on the person’s symptoms and activity level). For instance, a common trigger for leaks that women experience is having small leaks after a sneeze or a cough. However, more intense and purposeful activities like working out may have the same outcome. Any sort of pressure put on the urinary tract or bladder can cause an accidental leak. This could be jogging, doing yoga, or lifting. Both aerobic and anaerobic activities can lead to small leaks, so how are women supposed to stay active and healthy?
There are a few tips and products to help women who want to remain active and keep pursuing their passions and hobbies, but don’t want to be held back by their SUI symptoms.
Wear Dark Clothing – This is a classic trick! If you’re prone to an accidental leak mid-workout, try wearing black or dark clothes to help cover up if you happen to soak through a little bit.
Pads & Liners – Incontinence liners and pads are made to quickly absorb leaks when they happen. If you’re planning on a longer workout, however, you may want to pack extra as they can get uncomfortable after actively wearing for a while.
Kegels – These are exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that are the cause of most SUI symptoms. For a further look at how to do these check out our Kegel blog post.
Medical Options – Talk to your doctor, there may be topical or oral medications available to help re-strengthen tissue.
For active women, there may be an even better solution available over-the-counter. Revive is a reusable bladder support device designed to fit and work internally to help reduce leaks from the inside out. It’s FDA cleared and with clinical study participants feeling dry 75% of the time with Revive, it’s proven to be effective and safe. Revive is made to be one size to comfortably fit most women without the need for a medical professional to size or administer the device. It can also be worn up to 12 hours a day, keeping you dry all day.