• I remembered only three days after birth, a physio came to the maternity ward and gave me my kegel exercises. (Cultura RF)Source: Cultura RF
I set off for a jog around the block, but almost immediately I knew something was wrong.
By
Lucille Wong 

15 Jul 2020 - 8:46 AM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2020 - 4:31 PM

Six months ago, I went for a run. I was not usually a runner, preferring a swim or a spin class. But I was a new mum who had just returned to paid work, I needed more time efficient ways to exercise. I couldn’t think of anything more effective than a jog around the block.

So, one evening at the height of daylight savings, I set off. But almost immediately, I knew something was wrong. I felt pressure against my bladder, then followed an urgent need to pee. Moments after that, I felt a small leak.

Horrified, I stopped. The urge disappeared and I walked the rest of the way home. On return, I got onto Google doctor. Google and I both suspected a weakened pelvic floor likely caused by childbirth some 12 months earlier.

Google and I both suspected a weakened pelvic floor likely caused by childbirth some 12 months earlier.

Now, this wasn’t completely news to me. I remembered only three days after birth, a physio came to the maternity ward and gave me my kegel exercises. She had warned me that the forceps delivery of my daughter made me particularly susceptible to problems like incontinence in the future. At the time, I had more pressing issues like stitches in my perineum and a newborn glued to my breasts.

But I did get onto them as soon as I was strong enough. In the months after birth, I went to see a women’s health physio. She had checked my pelvic floor and sent me off with more exercises which involved imagining my private parts as elevators, diamonds and hammocks. I didn’t do them religiously nor was I sure that I was doing them correctly.

I went along to postnatal classes which always incorporated a pelvic floor component. But I went to these because I could BYO baby and I enjoyed the coffee afterwards with my new mum friends. For me, it was more of a social outing than serious rehab.

But after my failed attempt at running, I found myself back at the women’s health physio.

After an internal examination, she diagnosed stress incontinence, leakage caused by increased pressure on the bladder as a result of physical movement like coughing, sneezing or running.

After an internal examination, she diagnosed stress incontinence, leakage caused by increased pressure on the bladder as a result of physical movement like coughing, sneezing or running.

The treatment was a stricter rehab program (multiple sets of kegel exercises many times a day for many months). She suggested that I stopped running but if I wanted to continue, I should wear a tampon during the run. If the tampon held my organs in place, then I could invest in a vaginal pessary designed to help women like me run with confidence.

I had no idea that commercial products like these existed but my physio assured me that they did. She went on to tell me how common these symptoms were (one in three women who have had a baby will experience urinary incontinence) and that my case was very mild. Many women were managing much worse including pain, discomfort and severe loss of control.

Lots of women, especially those who were avid runners chose the pessary option. She even likened it to a good sports bra.

I was not an avid runner or really a runner at all. I might not have even realised if I had continued swimming or spinning. For a moment, I even considered not running ever again but of course I knew I had to run... for a bus, after my toddler and to know that I could.

I declined the pessary and returned to my kegel exercises.

I declined the pessary and returned to my kegel exercises. More recently, I have started to run again in short bursts with lots of walking in between. Slowly but surely, I’m gaining more control.

Postpartum incontinence is not a sexy topic. It’s not something we talk about yet so many women are suffering in silence and shame, so I want to share my story

I may be out there, panting and pacing. But I am also lifting that pelvic floor and hoping that today is the day I run with full bladder control.

Lucille Wong is a freelance writer.

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