It's pretty easy to perpetuate weirdly common myths about bladders and leakage without really giving 'em a second thought (after all, it doesn't take much for fake news and incorrect info to spread like a rampant wildfire). If your favorite women's health mag, your mom, and even your dear Aunt Linda all swear that your dribble dilemmas will cease if you'd just "DO YOUR KEGELS ALL DAY!" it's easy to think, surely they all must be right about this. Then, you do the damn Kegels, but alas, nothing changes for you and the leaks live on 😒. Before my first pelvic floor sesh, I used to think that if I went to the restroom and forced all of my pee (kinda like I was delivering a baby...except different hole) to be pushed out, the urge wouldn't hit me during my morning commute. Thankfully, I eventually learned that what I was doing was really, really harmful to my pelvic floor and could potentially lead to prolapse or worsened leaks. Oops. 😬 Knowing is half the battle after all. Right? Right.
And lately, we've been reading quite a few...let's just say...unreliable comments on social media about bladder and pelvic floor health that have us straining our most serious side eye. So, we decided that it's time to put our fact-checking hats on (with our favorite pelvic floor guru) to extinguish these relatively dangerous and misleading myths once and for all.
Myth: Do your Kegels and you won't have this problem!
Truth: Yes, it's true that Kegels are a part of pelvic floor mobility (and usually the only thing women do and/or preach), but they're not a one-size-fits-all exercise. Some women actually leak because their pelvic floors are too tight due hypertonic muscles. Since Kegels are all about tightening, the exercise could actually cause more harm to women with hypertonic muscles. Same goes for pregnant women. Sure, it might be great for some women to get their Kegel on pre-pregnancy. But, while you're pregnant, you wanna think about what you can do to help relax the pelvic floor, so that you can aim for an easier, less traumatic birth. When your pelvic floor is tight, you’re not accessing the full elasticity, relaxation, and potential of those muscles.
Myth: Bladder leaks only happen to women of a certain age.
Truth: That is false, false, false. Sure, as we age, our chances of leaking increase, but that's mostly due to the estrogen dip during menopause. That being said, medical professionals and pelvic floor therapists treat women as young as 18 and as old as 98. Bladder leaks can happen to women of all ages due to multiple sclerosis, chemo therapy, neurological disorders, interstitial cystitis, pelvic floor injuries (ranging from childbirth to sexual assault), fistula, taking medications with incontinence-inducing side effects, etc. (the list goes on).
Myth: Women who are fit and athletic never experience leakage.
Truth: Not true. In fact, high-impact and super intense sports can cause damage to pelvic floors. Studies have shown that 25-28% of high school and collegiate athletes who have never been pregnant report stress urinary incontinence. Without properly training the pelvic floor, runners, gymnasts, and weightlifters put more strain on it than it can handle, and experience stress urinary incontinence. Did you know that there was a pelvic floor physiotherapy team for the athletes at last year's Olympics?
Myth: You'll only leak if you have kids!
Truth: Actuaaaally, some women don't leak during pregnancies or even after their tiny humans make their exits. Pregnancy and childbirth could increase the risk of leaking (considering much added pressure of a growing uterus on the bladder) but it isn't necessarily a surefire bet that your pelvic floor will be weakened. Some women who've never had kids can be just as susceptible to dribblin'. Like most health conditions, it depends on predisposed experiences, lifestyle choices, and habits.
Myth: If you have a small bladder, peeing more frequently or going "just in case" will prevent accidents.
Truth: Peeing "just in case" wreaks havoc on the communication between brain and bladder. Our bladders (*very rare for them to be smaller than normal size*) are built to accommodate 16 ounces of fluid and the constant urge to go isn’t necessarily a “small or shy bladder” problem—it can be developed from not trusting our bodies.
Myth: Just push pee out even if you don't have to go.
Truth: Oof, no no no. Straining while peeing (like I use to 😬) or pooping is not healthy and puts your pelvic floor at risk for overactivity and prolapse. It's supposed to come out easy-peasy, ladies. And if it doesn't, it's time to hit up your doc or pelvic floor therapist.
Myth: Don't drink too much water if you're going to be around people!
Truth: We don't want you to be a ~*forever hermit 🐚*~ (although it is pretty nice every now and then) who can't drink water in public places. Truth is, drinking less water makes the urine in your bladder more concentrated. This leads to irritability within the bladder lining and false urges.
*~Now that we've doused those misleading myths with facts, what other leaky misconceptions make you go "hmmm"? 🤔 ~*