You're jogging along, feeling great -- and then you realize your running
shorts are damp with urine. Later that night, during a romantic rendezvous with
your partner, a trickle of urine appears again, definitely spoiling the
By Diane Umansky
When many of us are peacefully slumbering, Paula McClure, the owner of a spa
in Dallas, is often jolted awake by what she refers to as her sleep
"The committee meets in my head at 3 a.m., and we run down a list of
problems: all the things I didn't get done that day, people I didn't call back,
decisions I'm worried about," she says.
The dark-of-the-night fretting may follow McClure into the daytime hours,
often making her feel emotionally paralyzed. "My...
Lest you think stress incontinence is a problem only of middle-aged or
elderly women, think again. Surprisingly, young women actually have more stress
incontinence during sex than older women, according to Amy Rosenman, MD, a
gynecologist at Santa Monica -- UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, Calif., and
co-author of The Incontinence Solution.
While only 3% of women over age 65 reported incontinence during sexual
activity, 29% of women under age 60 did, Rosenman reports in her book, citing
an Israeli study that polled 100 women and was published in the
International Urogynecology Journal in 1999. When incontinence occurs
during intimate moments, women feel anxious, Rosenman says, even if they are in
The same anxiety can occur, of course, during a workout, where you may end
up with an embarrassing wet spot on your pants for the world to see.
Stress Incontinence Due to Weak Pelvic Floor Muscles
The problem, whether the stress incontinence occurs during exercise or sex,
has a common denominator, says Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN, professor emerita at
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and a sexuality researcher.
"Stress incontinence is related to the strength of the pelvic floor
muscles," Whipple says. The weaker those muscles are, the more likely you
are to have symptoms of stress incontinence -- leaking urine during physical
activity, such as exercise, sex, sneezing, laughing or jumping.
While many women experience minor leakage from time to time, at any age, if
it becomes more frequent or interferes with your normal routine, you should
tell your doctor. There is an array of very effective treatments for stress
If you have had several pregnancies and childbirths, your pelvic muscles and
tissues may have gotten stretched and damaged. With age, the muscles can
weaken, too, although stress incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging.
Excess weight can also weaken pelvic floor muscles and cause stress
Kegels Can Help Stress Incontinence
Strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor is crucial, experts agree.
One recommended way to do that is through Kegel exercises, according to the
American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
First, some anatomy: at the bottom of the pelvis, many muscle layers stretch
between your legs, attaching to the pelvic bones at the front, back and sides.
If you think of the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine, those are
the ones you will be targeting when doing your Kegels.
The how-to's: Pull in or squeeze the muscles, pretending you are trying to
stop urine flow. You should hold that squeeze for about 10 seconds. Follow that
by a 10-second rest. How many? Try three to four sets of 10 squeezes a day,
recommends the AAFP.