A former elite athlete and corporate lawyer, Kimberley Smith was used to functioning at her peak. Kimberley was an elite athlete from the age of 18, attending the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra straight out of high school. She played netball at the elite level for over 10 years, representing the NSW Swifts and was a member of the Australia Diamonds Squad. Here’s her story that introduces the real experience that can happen with sports stars and bladder leakage.
She says “at times I had leaking of urine at the end of a very hard training session, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I just thought it was a sign my body had worked hard.” It was also a topic that none of the athletes discussed. The stats on incontinence among female athletes we really need to take notice of (link), especially if we’re into high intensity sport like Netball. Kimberley says it is likely that at least two to three members of her team also experienced it, but no one called it out. “In the sporting world we received so much information on nutrition, exercise and training, but the pelvic floor was never mentioned. I would love to see that change,” she says.
Aware and Empowered
Kimberley’s passion is to see quality exercise and health education readily accessible and affordable for all women. “Women need information early and they need so much more,” she says.
Since having babies, Kimberley’s journey has been a challenging one. She has modified her lifestyle substantially and accepted that she can no longer do all the high intensity exercise she was able to do before. Her body had changed, and her pelvic floor problems made her adjust the way she did everyday things.
Stuff you need to know before having a baby
Stats reveal that 1 in 3 women who have had a baby wet themselves. So, pregnancy and childbirth can be difficult for some of us. Kimberley says that “A woman needs to know about the reality of childbirth and what can happen. Then she needs to be prepared with proactive strategies to assist with labour, birth, and post-partum. Giving birth is one of the most incredible things our body can do, but the impact and repercussions are just not talked about enough.”
Kimberley is also concerned that women are told to “just do your pelvic floor muscle exercises” but says incontinence often requires a much more intricate approach when our stories and experiences are so unique. Some women will experience incontinence due to an overactive (overly tight) pelvic floor (link), while others will experience incontinence because of an overactive bladder. Without proper guidance and education, you might never fully understand the root cause of your leaking. A Pelvic Health Physiotherapist or Nurse Continence Specialist can provide this guidance and support.
Leakage can happen but it’s not normal
“Anyone who experiences incontinence should see it as a warning sign and a red flag telling you to get onto this and do something about it now! Don’t accept being told ‘everything is fine’ if it doesn’t feel that way to you. Always seek a second opinion,” she says.
Where to get help
Support and help with incontinence and any pelvic floor problems is what the National Continence Helpline was set up for. Experienced Nurse Continence Specialists can provide free, confidential information, advice and support to anyone who gives them a call. They listen and then advise and direct you to further experienced Health Professionals, including Pelvic Health Physios, near to where you live if you want and need it!
Here at Go Against The Flow we’re all about empowering you to check in on your health, especially your below the belt health! We believe it’s always a good call to get things sorted if you’re dealing with stuff that you can do things about….and actually get help with!
Incontinence and our Pelvic Floor Problems happen. Improving and even preventing or reducing the risk of incontinence is possible. Getting onto doing the things – like good habits – that set you up for good health for a lifetime we believe is a super good call in achieving this!
So, get aware and get onto doing the stuff that makes you better including all those good habit calls! …….And the big final shout out goes out to say…… Reach out to get the help you need if things aren’t improving!
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.