The dreaded cough…and other “stresses”

One of the issues I see regularly in clinic as a women’s health physiotherapist is urinary stress incontinence. As stressful as incontinence can be, this type of incontinence is not related to emotional stress but rather a physical “stress” on the bladder caused by increases in abdominal and pelvic pressure. If you’ve ever coughed, sneezed, laughed, run, jumped, lifted something heavy and thought, “uh oh I just peed myself,” then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I decided to blog about this topic because I caught a cold/flu at 27 weeks pregnant and was sick for a few weeks, developing a nasty and persistent cough to the point where I couldn’t talk without being sent into a wild coughing fit. Now a coughing fit by itself sends a lot of pressure downwards on your bladder and other pelvic organs, but throw a late stage pregnancy into the mix and the pressure downwards is immense. It really highlighted the importance of maintaining a strong and FUNCTIONAL pelvic floor during pregnancy.

The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that literally form the floor to your pelvis. The bladder, uterus and rectum sit above the pelvic floor. I was once told that the pressure on the pelvic floor from a baby inside the uterus is the equivalent of a 100kg man on a trampoline. So you can understand why that trampoline needs to be strong and functional. This extends beyond pregnancy and into the rest of your life.

Anyone who has been pregnant has probably been told to do pelvic floor exercises. Remember that this is generalised advice and may need tweaking to each individual. If you experience stress incontinence (or any other kind of incontinence) it would be worthwhile paying a visit to a women’s health physiotherapist who will be able to give more tailored advice and guidance. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly.



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