How to Stop Peeing When You Sneeze

Emma | 10:34

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"My muscles aren't carrying a lot of that mental anxiety anymore."

Stress Incontinence Postpartum Physical Therapy Biofeedback Yoga Anxiety

Story Transcript

My story is about the fact that I've always peed a little bit when I sneeze. And this goes all the way back to high school. Which in high school, it was embarrassing, and I just never talked about it and just tried not to laugh too hard or made sure I was always at a bathroom when I had to sneeze. But then I started getting pregnant and having kids and it got a lot worse. There was one time where I was sitting on my couch, and I always sneeze multiple times in a row, and I totally peed on my couch a little bit. So that was a little embarrassing. But also, when you're pregnant or when you're talking with other moms, it's kind of like an in-joke, Oh, I sneezed, I have to go change my underwear now. So it just seemed kind of normal and not that big of a deal. But then I was reading, I was reading about parental leave in other countries and how, I won't get into that. But I was reading that in France, pelvic floor therapy is just a part of postpartum care for women. You go to your OBGYN to check everything and then you also just go to pelvic floor therapy because that's what you do. And it kind of made me realize that I shouldn't have to pee every time I sneeze. That's not something I should have to worry about.

So this year, I'm currently in between jobs, and I figured, Well, as long as I don't have anywhere to be during the day, I have time to go to the doctor to do things. So, why don't I go ahead and ask about pelvic floor therapy? And it actually took me a couple of times seeing my OBGYN before I remembered to even ask. At the end of an appointment, I was like, Oh, that reminds me. I've been meaning to ask about a referral for pelvic floor therapy. So it took a couple months to even get the referral because it had to go through insurance. But I started seeing a physical therapist in September. And she was like general physical therapy, but she also specifically works with postpartum work so like pelvic floor therapy and then also even just like ab work for women whose abs have separated after birth. So anyway, I started seeing her in September and I honestly kind of thought like, Oh, just because I never really did kegels. And she’s probably just going to tell me, Start doing more kegels. And I won’t have to like run to the bathroom when I laugh too hard. But in her initial assessment, it was a whole body assessment. So what she actually determined was that I just carry a lot of tension in my muscles, which makes sense because I'm an anxious person. But she was saying that I carry a lot of tension in my back and in my lower back and even in my abdominal muscles. And those are all linked to the pelvic floor muscles. And so my muscles were all actually hypertonic, which it just means that they're flexed all the time, which sounds like I was like a jacked person. But it really just meant that my muscles couldn't do the work they were supposed to do because they were already so tense all the time that when they needed to contract or flex, they couldn't do it because they already thought they were working. And so that was kind of the root of the issue. My muscles couldn't tense to stop, basically stop if I had to pee. They couldn't tense up to stop that because they were already really tense. They were never relaxing properly.

So what we did for the first six weeks, maybe even the first two months, I was going in almost weekly and the first half of the session was what she was calling fascia work, which is basically like a massage, a really painful massage. Where she’s really digging into my muscles and I don't know. She's the expert. I would be sore for a couple days afterwards the first couple weeks. But that was to help my back muscles and abdominal muscles relax. And then the next half of each session would be what she called internal work, where basically where she would just put on some gloves and stick a finger in my vagina and she would just say, I’m just sitting here and just telling these muscles to relax. We're just gonna wait for them to relax. So I would just be sitting there with like no pants on, and she’d just be like, Okay, just relax. And usually at the end of the session she’d say, Okay, yeah I felt that one relax. That was good. Good work. And then my homework was that I was supposed to go home and just practice breathing properly. So your diaphragm and your pelvic floor muscles are supposed to kind of move in unison when you breathe. So when you inhale they're supposed to both drop down to make room for your lungs. And then when you exhale they're both supposed to push up to expel the air from your lungs. And what I was doing was the opposite, like my diaphragm was dropping, but my pelvic floor muscles were tensing when I was breathing in. And then they weren't really relaxing when I was breathing out. I think I got that right. The opposite. I'm saying the opposite because I was doing it wrong for so long. I was breathing in and my muscles were going up, and I was breathing out and my muscles were just staying up. So she says it’s really just like mental work. It's just like learning to breathe properly like that. And then just kind of on my own anyway, Well, if I have to breathe for 20 minutes a day, I might as well do some yoga while I’m doing it. So just on my own I started doing these restorative flow videos. I would just find videos on YouTube or online. And it's basically just a lot of sitting and stretching and focusing on your breathing and breathing into your muscles. But I mean I found that really helpful both for it gave my body something to do while I was breathing, but also it actually helped in between sessions with getting my muscles to relax and stretching them properly so that they could relax.

And then, after those first 6 to 8 weeks, she basically recommended that I get, she gave me a website and it’s called a therapy wand, but it's basically a vibrator. And then you do, so at home I was doing the same internal work instead of waiting in between sessions. I was just using this small vibrating wand to encourage my muscles to relax. So I was doing that, and then we started doing E-Stim and biofeedback. So I have this little sensor and it’s mine and I take it home in between sessions. But it basically is like a really fat tampon with a really long cord attached and it connects to a couple different machines that are in the physical therapy office. One is the E-Stim machine, and it's like a … machine, but it basically sends a little electrical shock into you to get your muscles to do what they're supposed to be doing, so because my muscles are always tensed, I couldn't figure out how to get them to flex on purpose. And so this is really helpful because she’s like, Okay, now your muscles are contracting. Now try to do it yourself without the machine. And now your muscles are relaxing, try to do that yourself. I could feel what it was supposed to feel like versus what I was doing. And then after we do that, we would do biofeedback where on my own I was flexing and relaxing. And I could see on the computer screen, there was a little chart, and it would show me like, Okay, you're at like a 2, now you’re at a 1. And now you’re flexing, so you’re at a 7. And I’m a little bit Type A so that was really helpful because I could see like, Oh, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, or I'm not doing what I'm not supposed to be doing. And then in between sessions, I could see like, Oh last week my numbers were this and now my numbers are this and I'm improving. So that was just really helpful mentally to know that all the work I was doing at home and all these sessions I was coming to were helping.

So tomorrow I have what’s probably my last appointment. From the very beginning, she and I established that the goal was really to get me to stop peeing when I sneezed or when I laughed too hard, and we probably accomplished that in those first like 6 to 8 weeks. And now just being able to use those muscles on my own is kind of icing on the cake. So, I'm not leaking at all when I sneeze or when I pee and now I'm really just focusing on muscle strength. So, like in 3 to 4 months, I went from needing the help that I sought out a physical therapist to now I probably won't see her after tomorrow. And then the other thing with it too is that it's really helped physically. But I've also been working with a therapist, like a psychologist on a lot of anxiety, and so it's just really been interesting to kind of see the two sides of it. I've been working fully on the mental side of it with my therapist. And then also working with a physical therapist at the same time for what I thought was a very specific issue like, Oh, I pee when I sneeze. But like, Oh no, it's because I carry tension in my body and I'm an anxious person, and so just kind of working on both sides of it has really helped my whole body I feel like. I feel a little better mentally from working with my therapist, but then I'm also feeling better mentally because I'm feeling better physically. I'm doing work now to make sure that I'm taking care of my body and that my muscles aren't carrying a lot of that mental anxiety anymore. So I feel really good about that. And then this is not PG and this is not something I’ve really talked to my physical therapist about a lot. But she kind of mentioned offhand in one of our first sessions that a lot of women who have this similar issue where they have trouble like relaxing their muscles. Doing this work to kind of get those muscles to do what they're supposed to be doing, like relaxing and contracting when they're supposed to versus all the time. It actually helps with orgasm. So I have noticed in the last 8 to 12 weeks that it's just a little bit easier and a little bit quicker to orgasm. So that is also a really nice benefit. The end.