Bladder leakage happens – but it doesn’t have to
Bladder leakage or urinary incontinence (UI) – literally peeing when you don’t want to, is the most common pelvic floor issue affecting women across their lifespan and its prevalence increases with age. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is predominant in young women. This is when there is extra pressure on the bladder and your pelvic floor muscles can’t deal with that extra pressure, so things can get a little damp.
It’s a legit issue to be aware of
It is a common human trait not to think too much about our health until we experience issues. Many would say that young women in their late teens to early twenties are usually not too concerned about their pelvic floor muscle health. We tend to think that incontinence is an older woman’s issue and not something you need to be worried about.
However, more than 1 in 10 young women experiences bladder leakage (incontinence).
Sport and incontinence
Although this can occur in any young woman, and for different reasons, female athletes are particularly susceptible. Urinary incontinence, of which SUI is the most common, has a prevalence rate of 25.9% in young female athletes across different sports, with the highest prevalence rate of 75.6%. found in volleyball players.
An Australian study, published in 2018, found that 30 percent of female netballers experience urinary incontinence while playing one of Australian women’s most popular team sports. Published by women’s health continence physiotherapist, Naomi Gill, the study found that one third of all netball players, and half of those who have had children, experience urine leakage during training or playing the game.
Why does leakage happen?
The association between UI and high-impact physical activity is due to increased pressure on the bladder. Breaking it down, this happens when you add extra pressure to your abdomen by moving suddenly, like you might when you cough or sneeze, lift or jump. The reason things get a little damp is that your pelvic floor muscles can’t deal with that extra pressure very well. The good news is that pelvic floor muscle training (PFM) is considered as the first line of therapy among young female athletes and good habits to form for most young women.
We’re shouting it from the rooftops!
It is known that urinary incontinence in young people is both under-diagnosed and under-reported. Some of us may not address the problem or seek specialist help due to embarrassment and not even knowing it’s a legit issue! Some of us may also reduce or withdraw from physical activity due to fear of developing incontinence or pelvic floor issues. We shouldn’t have to stop doing the things we love when there is help out there to improve and even stop incontinence in its tracks! No more silence!
Incontinence is preventable and treatable
Go Against the Flow (GATF) is a primary health prevention campaign to raise awareness amongst young women. GATF was started with one main goal – to let young women know about incontinence; that it does happen, but it doesn’t have to!
Like many women’s issues, there is something that can be done to treat incontinence and GAFT is a website along with our socials where young women can get important information and support. The key message of GATF is that incontinence is both preventable and treatable and that it is not something a woman of any age should feel is a normal and irreparable part of her life.
Go Against the Flow
GAFT was created specifically for adolescent and young women as a primary prevention initiative with a long-term vision to curb the incidence of 1 in 3 women with incontinence and pelvic health issues later in life. So, get on board and join the movement to bring down those numbers and even stop urinary incontinence in it’s tracks!
For more information go to goagainsttheflow.org.au
Take the plunge right now and call the National Continence Helpline – you’ll find support and advise from Nurses Continence Specialists ready to give a listening ear and helping hand!
This article has been adapted from an article published in the Spring 2022 edition of Bridge – the quarterly magazine of the Continence Foundation of Australia.