Improving your pelvic floor muscle function can greatly improve and prevent such issues because it has a direct role in both supporting and controlling the bladder and bowel.
Here are a few day to day tips to optimise your pelvic floor and bladder health:
1. Practice your pelvic floor exercises; See how many repetitions of short (1 second) and long contractions (aiming for 10 seconds) you can do. Practice this three times a day Try using different cues such as;
'draw your coccyx towards your pubic bone'
'imagine you are trying to stop passing urine'
'imagine you are trying to stop passing wind'
'try and draw a tampon up inside your vagina'
Make sure you aren't holding your breath! If you find this hard not to do then count or talk out loud or focus on exhaling as you squeeze.
2. Drink between 1500-2000 mls a day (if you are breastfeeding, completing vigorous exercise or perspiring a lot you may require more)
3. When going for a wee it should ideally be over 300 mls (get an old plastic jug and measure!)
4. You should go for a wee between 6-8 times over 24 hours. It is not normal to go every 30 minutes!
If you find you are going to the toilet frequently with small volumes you may need to get the pelvic floor stronger and practice 'deferring the urge' with bladder retraining techniques. The pelvic floor acts as an inhibitor to the bladder. Some call it the gatekeeper to the bladder! To improve your bladders capacity and ability to hold for longer, start by practising deferring urges at home (somewhere you know you can get to the toilet if you need to) by holding long gentle contractions of your pelvic floor. Also try to keep calm as anxiety can only make the urge feel stronger! Easier said than done I know, but sticking with bladder retraining techniques can work.
5. DO NOT practice stopping passing urine when you are actually going to the toilet. This can lead to bladder irritation.
6. Do you hover on public toilets? DON'T! This can inhibit your pelvic floor from completely relaxing to allow you to go for a wee and can lead to incomplete emptying meaning you might feel you need to go more frequently. Put down some tissues or carry wipes instead!
7. When going for a wee sit with your feet flat on the floor and lean forwards with your elbows on your knees, this helps to position your bladder and urethra opmtimally to empty.
8. Do you go to the toilet 'just in case'? DON'T! If you are going out the door but have only been to the toilet 30 minutes ago do not go again if you don't feel you need to! This can lead to a reduction in your bladders ability to store urine and can then lead to frequency and urgency issues.
9. What colour is your wee? Urine should be clear enough for you to read a newspaper through in the bottom of the toilet pan. If it is cloudy, yellow-dark yellow, contains blood or has a strong odour you should seek medical help. You may have a lower urinary tract infection or something else requiring assessment and treatment.
9. Do you live off that hot cuppa to get you through the day? Alcohol and caffeine can be an irritant to the bladder as well as a diuretic meaning you may need to go more urgently. Try to limit your tea, coffee, cola and alcohol intake, however if you are suffering with urgency or urge incontinence you may want to consider cutting this out. Water, herbal teas and decaff tea and coffee can be good replacements.
10. If you are suffering with any bladder urgency, frequency or incontinence symptoms make sure to visit a Women's Health Physiotherapist. They can review your pelvic floor function and assess your bladder habits and diary and make changes to minimise and manage these symptoms which can be life changing.
I hope this information helps you to be proactive in your bladder health. Some of the above are things you may not think to think about because they can be just 'your normal', and toileting habits aren't typical dinner table conversation so you may not be aware of what is 'normal' and what isn't. If you have any questions just ask or book yourself in for an appointment.
Until next time,
The Powder Room Physio