If the thought of skipping makes you worry about peeing your pants, you’re not alone. Perhaps you avoid skipping, box jumps, going on the trampoline with your kids, or doing any sort of plyometric work all out of fear of leaking. Maybe it’s as simple as a cough or sneeze that causes an unwanted trickle. Or maybe it takes nothing at all.
“OK, yup, been there. I only wear black pants on days with jumping…”
It doesn’t need to be like this. While common — nearly 10 per cent of Canadians suffer pelvic health challenges — it’s not normal for the human body to function this way.
I first encountered stress urinary incontinence in university as a varsity athlete on the track and field team. For me, the stress part was the plyometric component of our training and, often during the bounding exercises, I would get a little of that unwanted trickle. I assumed it was normal and was too embarrassed to ask my coach.
Years later when I discovered CrossFit, and fellow female class members would knowingly ask each other, “What’s your number?” How many double-unders can you hit before you pee a little? The fact it’s so common makes you start to think it’s normal and it just comes with the territory of being a female athlete.
My issues happened years before I got pregnant. I didn’t really think it was normal before having kids and I had always heard “it’s a mom thing,” so I was a little worried about what would happen to me once I actually did have kids. I talked to my physiotherapist while pregnant to learn more about pelvic health.
Women assume this is normal, likely going to great lengths to avoid embarrassing moments, or missing out on social and energizing activities. Even a spin class too soon after having a baby can be too much because, let me tell you, there is no way doing anything with quick feet out of the saddle post-baby until strengthening of the pelvic floor has happened. When I took a spin class about two months postpartum I let the instructor know I’d be sitting during some songs. She told me she completely peed herself her first class back teaching after becoming a mom.
Female athletes and moms (either pregnant or postpartum) should know this: leaking is not a sign of normal pelvic floor function and there is treatment to help, no matter if it’s been an issue for you for one week or a decade.
“If a woman feels that pelvic health physio could be helpful for her, the physiotherapist can do an assessment and develop a treatment plan,” says Heather Enns, at Lakeview Physiotherapy and Acupuncture in Calgary. “If a woman is uncertain, particularly during pregnancy, she could ask her physician or midwife if pelvic physiotherapy would be appropriate.”
A pelvic floor physiotherapist will look at alignment, test imbalances in muscle strength and treat with massage, active release, dry needling and breathing techniques.
The solutions are out there for athletes of all levels. Seek them out so we can wear grey pants again on workout days.
Every athlete and mom needs a pelvic floor physiotherapist. If you’re wondering what and where your pelvic floor is and “There’s physio for that?” — stick around, you’re in the right place. There are experts who can help if any of the following applies to you, woman or man:
- Urinary problems such as incontinence (leaking), frequent peeing, urgency;
- Bowel problems such as incontinence (leaking) and constipation;
- Pelvic pain — inside and outside the pelvis;
- Painful or difficult intercourse;
- Prenatal and postpartum women;
- Before and after pelvic surgery.