One in every three new mothers, experiences stress incontinence. Many do not consider it as a real medical problem. They simply ignore the condition and see it as just another ‘normal’ part of their lives. Contrary to myth/ popular belief -
The medical definition of stress incontinence is that the sphincter muscle surrounding the urethra (the tube/ duct through which urine is carried out of the body from the bladder) and the pelvic muscles supporting the urethra are so weakened, that pressure on the bladder causes these muscles to give way and allow small amounts of urine to leak from the bladder. Depending on your level of urinary incontinence, you might not suffer leakage of urine every time you cough, sneeze, laugh, etc. However, even if your bladder is not full when you perform a strenuous or sudden physical activity, your chances of experiencing some kind of urinary leakage increases.
Below are few causes and Signs of Stress Incontinence that mothers need to be aware of:
1. Pregnancy and Childbirth - There are multiple factors during pregnancy and childbirth that weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor. A baby that is large or heavy might cause some damage to the pelvic floor. Hence, in case of vaginal delivery, pelvic floor muscles stretch out.
2. Routine Activities - A working mother needs to balance office responsibilities and everyday household chores. Some of these household chores are physical in nature, which over time, put pressure on pelvic floor muscles, causing a bladder leak. Even little everyday things can cause stress incontinence, like -
• getting up from a chair/ getting out of bed
• stepping out of a vehicle
• lifting a heavy object
3.Weight Issues - Women who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing stress incontinence, because excess body fat exerts increased pressure on the urinary bladder, resulting in leakage.
4.Post Menopause - After menopause, women experience a decline in estrogen, which is responsible for keeping the urethra in good health. Therefore, a low estrogen level affects the ability of the urethra to close the bladder outlet and hold in urine.
5.Ignoring the Problem/ Fear of Society - Mothers are often too caught-up taking care of their family, and are not vocal about their issues. There are many women in India who still refrain from talking openly about many health issues, due to the social stigma associated with them.
Until the pre-modern era, women might have felt helpless during those frequent “urine leaks” and they had to probably manage with cloth pieces or napkins. But today, there are highly absorbent “Insert Pads”, aka stress incontinence pads that serve as the best option to manage incontinence, other than the surgical treatments. These are soft, light, comfortable and reliable. Best of all, these stress incontinence pads don’t even feel like an extra layer.
A daughter is the best person whom her mother can talk to freely about the urinary incontinence condition. So, daughters should not only make their moms aware of the symptoms of stress incontinence but also tell them that #ItsNotOKMom, it's a ‘Sign of Stress Incontinence’ (SOSi).
And, there’s no better day to begin this discussion than Mother’s Day!