For those of us with unhappy bladders, summer time is full of reminders. We know we should drink more water, but then we worry we’ll be running to the bathroom every half hour. We want to join our kids on the trampoline, but we worry about leaking. Long road trips = lots of asking “does anyone need to go to the bathroom?”
After having kids, it can be harder to have normal control over the bladder. Sometimes the pelvic floor muscles (including the ones that stop the flow of pee) have a hard time regaining control after childbirth. Sometimes the bathroom habits we adapted during pregnancy are hard to let go of after the baby is born. So that means, regaining muscle control and changing our daily habits can make a big difference!
1. Don’t “hold it” too long or go too often! You should go 5-8 times/day. The bladder is constantly filling (how fast or slow depends on how much fluid/how your kidneys are processing). The smooth muscle tissue of the bladder stretches as it fills, and gives signals to your brain. You’ll get a signal that says “It’ll be time to go soon” and then after it is pretty full, a signal “okay, time to go”. Listen to those signals! Don’t “go” at the first one. You still have time. And don’t ignore the one that says, yes, time to go now.
2. Make sure you “go” for at least 8 seconds (“1-mississippi, 2 mississippi”….). This is a good way to figure out if you’re going too often. The “volume” should take at least 8 seconds. If it’s shorter than that, then you’re probably going too often and would benefit from trying to wait a little longer. One way to think of this is getting your kids to eat dinner. What happens when you give them a little snack every time they think they’re hungry? They eat little bits all day and then have no room for the full dinner. If you train your bladder to “go” every little while, then it forgets how to hold larger volumes.
3. No JIC-ing! (Don’t go “just in case”). Okay, moms, we’re all guilty of this one. Too many bad memories of being at the park with no bathroom, or in the middle of nowhere on a road trip has turned us into these paranoid people who make ourselves and our kids go way too often. We’re going before we leave for work, before working out, before going to the grocery store with the dirty bathroom… too often! What it does is trains the bladder to give you the “signal” too early. Retraining this one can be a leap of faith, but start some of the easier switches.
4. Watch out for food and beverages that can irritate the bladder - caffeine, alcohol, wine/beer, carbonated drinks, sweets, spicy food. I hear you - it’s all the fun stuff! Seriously, these foods/drinks all have substances that can be irritating to the bladder. Some of us are more sensitive to that than others. It doesn’t mean eliminate, it just means to be mindful of when you eat or drink them (ie, avoid it at times you’re more prone to leaking or urgency), don’t take them in excessively, and follow Rule #5.
5. Stay hydrated! Dehydration = concentrated urine = unhappy bladder = more frequent urinating. It seems if you have to go to the bathroom frequently, you would want to drink less water, right? In fact, keeping a good balance of your fluids and taking in plenty of water makes your bladder less sensitive to your urine, and reduces urgency. A good general guideline is to drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces. Ie, if you weigh 100 pounds, be sure to drink 50 ounces of water/day.
6. Sit down, don’t hover! You want your pelvic floor to relax. Hovering over a less ideal toilet causes tension in your pelvis, which signals the bladder not to empty, and then straining (see Rule #7) can occur. Overall a bad scenario for your pelvis. So put down the liner, sit down, and relax to go.
7. Avoid straining. Wait for the muscles to relax and then go. Sitting down, especially with the feet supported is best to help this happen. Straining causes downward pressure on the organs and pelvic floor - no good!
8. Remember - leaking urine at any time is not normal (even as a mom)! Leaking as a mom has become normalized but it’s actually a symptom of things not working well with your pelvic floor and bladder. Unfortunately it can progress with age and often lead to fecal incontinence. The good news is there are many ways to help these muscles and learn new habits to fix it!
If any of this seems out of reach for you, your pelvic floor and bladder may benefit from some individual attention.
Jill Heath is a licensed physical therapist and owner of She PT, LLC. She received a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and B.S. in Exercise Science from Northern Arizona University. During years of practice helping individuals of all ages recover from a variety of conditions, she developed a passion for working with women. She opened She PT, LLC with the purpose of meeting not only the unique physical needs of women, but also empowering women to take charge of their well-being by making care accessible.