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Exercise and Urinary Incontinence

Q: After having my second child, I decided it was time to do something about the 30 pounds of baby fat I'm still toting around. So I signed up for step aerobics classes at the local gym, but after just two classes I had to stop. Both times, jumping up and down off of the step caused urinary leakage! It's so humiliating to be 34 years old and have a problem with wetting your pants. What can I do to control my bladder while being active?

Dr. Donnica: This is a much more common problem than you may think: According to the Agency for Healthcare Policy Research, 11 million American women suffer from urinary incontinence. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is the most prevalent type of incontinence. SUI is the sudden, involuntary loss of urine that often happens with laughing, sneezing, coughing or exercise. If you looked around the aerobics class, you might have noticed that you weren't the only one running to the bathroom! SUI is caused by anything that causes pelvic muscle strain or weakness such as vaginal childbirth. It can also be exacerbated by the estrogen loss that accompanies menopause.

SUI affects women of all ages. For most women, SUI can be an embarrassing, unpredictable condition. As a result, many women avoid an active lifestyle or shy away from social situations. As you know, exercise is important for your health. So what can you do? The good news is that SUI is treatable without resorting to adult diapers. You will need to see your doctor for a complete evaluation. Based upon your exam, your doctor may recommend medication or a minimally invasive surgical procedure.

Created: 11/21/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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