To do a Kegel, make sure that you are relaxing your other muscles—including the buttocks and inner thighs—to isolate your pelvic floor muscles. Squeeze the muscles and hold for ten seconds. Work up to two to three sets of 10 to 12 squeezes two or three times a day. A study in 1999 of stress incontinent women concluded that women who did Kegels regularly improved their condition more dramatically than did women using other non-surgical methods. "Those women least likely to abandon their routine were the most likely to succeed," remarks Dr. Goldberg.
Don't Suffer in Silence!
Don't be embarrassed about talking to your doctor about your bladder problems—he or she has heard it before! Discuss your concerns with your primary care physician, or better yet with your OB-GYN at your six-week, six-month, or one-year appointment. Bring questions along with notes about daily urine habits, including how frequently you use the bathroom and how frequently you leak. List your food and liquid intake for each day so your doctor will have a complete picture about what may be triggering your problem. Your doctor may refer you to an urogynecologist who specializes in treating urinary incontinence.
The solution to your incontinence may be as simple as teaching you how to perform Kegels properly, by verbal instruction from your doctor or through biofeedback where you see your muscles contracting through electrodes attached to your body and displayed on a computer screen. These are just a few of the treatments your doctor may recommend. "There is so much more information and treatment options then there were ten years ago," comments Dr. Goldberg. "For women who've heard horror stories from their mothers or grandmothers, it just isn't the same today."
Most doctors advise waiting until after you're done having children before considering surgery, but even then procedures are becoming more common and more easily performed with better results than they were a generation ago.
Remember—pregnancy and childbirth do not mean that leaks should be a normal part of your life. Start your Kegel exercises today—even if you don't have incontinence—and talk to your doctor about any questions.
For more information, contact the American Urological Association or the National Association for Continence. And to find a urogynecologist in your area, go to the official website of the American Urogynecology Society.