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Urinary Incontinence: Overcoming an Often Overlooked Side-Effect of Childbirth or Menopause

By Michael Callen

Childbirth and menopause are two phenomena that many women will face in their lives. Unfortunately, having children or going through menopause can create temporary or long-term issues with urinary incontinence. If you've had a baby, you've no doubt been told to do Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pubococcygeus muscles that form the pelvic floor between the legs. Toning these muscles helps to prevent the onset of incontinence; yet many women skip these exercises altogether or do them incorrectly.

Women going through menopause can experience urinary incontinence due to a lack of estrogen. Once a woman stops menstruating, her body ceases to make estrogen. Estrogen is, in part, responsible for keeping the lining of the bladder and urethra plump and healthy. A lack of estrogen can be responsible for a weakening of the bladder control muscles.

Pressure from coughing, sneezing, or lifting can push urine past the grips of a weakened muscle. Leakage of this type is known as stress incontinence. It is one of the most common types of bladder control problems experienced by older women. If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, you should not self-diagnose your problem. It is important to see a doctor first.

Your obstetrician-gynecologist or medical doctor should first perform a physical exam. Your doctor should be certain that your bladder empties properly, that you don't have a urinary tract infection (UTI) and that you know how to properly contract your pelvic floor or Kegel muscles.

After your doctor has determined that there is no physical deformity, complication or infection, you must next determine which course of action to take. There are three common ways to treat urinary incontinence:

-- learning behavioral techniques -- how to control the muscles of the bladder and the sphincter to prevent leakage.

-- taking medication to replace hormones, stop abnormal bladder muscle contractions or tighten sphincter muscles.

-- performing Kegel exercises to work the pelvic muscles.

In most cases, the most effective and beneficial course of action is to work the Kegel muscles back in to shape. But how is one to do that?

Over 50 years ago, Dr. Arnold Kegel discovered that by clenching and relaxing the muscles used to stop the flow of urine, the pelvic floor (or Kegel) muscles could be strengthened and rehabilitated. Because of this discovery, most people have heard of "Kegel exercises," but what most people do not know is that Dr. Kegel incorporated a device known as the "Kegel Perineometer" that was inserted into the vaginal cavity to measure the contractions and provide feedback to the patient. In this way, the patient was able to monitor the quality of the exercises and be certain that they were being done correctly.

Most women who just "do" kegels have minimal results due to the lack of feedback. There is nothing to tell them if they are doing the exercise properly. The most common problem associated with doing Kegel exercises without feedback is the accidental contraction of the abdominal muscles at the same time as the pelvic floor muscles. When this occurs the abdominal muscles (which are bigger and stronger) push down on the pelvic floor and can actually make the problem worse.

Since it's not likely that the typical family has a Kegel Perineometer lying around, what's a woman to do? Fortunately there is a safe, affordable solution that has been used successfully by over 100,000 women to strengthen their Kegel muscles in the privacy of their own homes.

This device is known as The Kegelmaster. The Kegelmaster is a small, hinged device that is gently slipped three inches into the vagina. Once done, a safety knob is loosened allowing the small spring (or springs) inside to open the hinged device a few degrees. The woman will then squeeze her kegel muscles causing the device to close. The Kegelmaster's two, flat internal surfaces close tightly against one another providing feedback to the user that the exercise has been done correctly and completely.

The Kegelmaster has four positions in which springs can be installed or moved. This allows the user to slowly increase the amount of resistance experienced during each exercise. Exercises can be completed in only a few minutes and results can be seen within a few days and improvement can continue over a few short months. No one should suffer needlessly from this embarrassing problem when a simple, affordable solution is so readily available.

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