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6 Things Women Should Know About Incontinence

By Leah Fulker, PT, DPT

As a physical therapist, I’ve heard countless times from so many women: Nobody ever told me about this. I wish I would have done this sooner! Why isn’t this talked about more? Why did I wait so long to get help? What are they referring to? Bladder leaks or urinary incontinence! Here are some things I wish women knew:

  1. URINARY INCONTINENCE IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES WE SEE WITH WOMEN

    I’ve seen women of all ages with the same complaint of urinary incontinence.

    Did you know that:

    • 1 in 3 women struggle with stress urinary incontinence (SUI) (1) – leaks that happen with coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising, or lifting things. The amount can be a few drops to tablespoons or more.
    • 1 in 2 women over 65 struggles with SUI (1)
    • Women who develop SUI during pregnancy are 579% more likely to have SUI 1 year postpartum (2)
    • An active lifestyle can put women more at risk of SUI
      • Athletes have 177% higher risk of developing SUI than inactive women (3)
      • Volleyball has the highest prevalence of SUI for high-impact sports (75.6%) followed by trampolining (72.7%), indoor soccer (50%), cross-country skiers and runners (45.5%), running (44%), basketball (34.8%), athletics (20.8%), and handball (20%) (4)

    Many women don’t understand how widespread the problem is – or they think it’s just a part of being a woman. These ideas keep women stuck, just coping with the problem on their own. It’s important to get the word out so that more women can get help.

  2. PHYSICAL THERAPISTS – SPECIFICALLY PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPISTS – CAN HELP WITH BLADDER LEAKS

    It’s true! We are specialists and experts in the pelvic floor. We work with women on problems like bladder leaks, as well as other issues like pelvic pain, constipation, and prolapse to name a few.

    Many women don’t know that we can help. They suffer needlessly or just cope with pads, but seeking the help of a qualified professional can be a game-changer for women. Women can be evaluated to determine the best course of action, whether that is a strengthening program or a relaxation program. Yes, tight/tense/overactive muscles can cause incontinence too!

  3. GET HELP NOW, IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY — OR TOO LATE

    As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I’ve seen patients with early-onset urinary incontinence but more often we see those that have been suffering from this condition for many, many years! As a healthcare provider, I wish so badly that these women had help sooner. Many women delay treatment due to embarrassment. Or, they think leaks are normal because friends, sisters, and mom also leak. Whatever the reason might be, don’t be like the 66% of women who don’t talk to their doctor about it. (5)

    We know strength drops with inactivity (even 1-3% per day! (6)), and it’s never too late to gain strength whether you’re a master athlete or an inactive person (7), so the sooner you can get your pelvic floor muscles the help they need, the better!

  4. YES, KEGELS REALLY CAN HELP!

    Pelvic floor muscle training (aka Kegels) has been scientifically proven and is the 1st guideline by the American College of Physicians to be a first-line treatment option for women with SUI. (8) And you know what else? They advise against medication for SUI! (8)

    Did you know that one study found women with SUI spending hundreds of dollars a year on pads and laundering! (9) It’s time to ditch these pads and put our time and money towards something useful!

    Now I know that pads have their place… I once saw a woman in the clinic who was so embarrassed about her urinary incontinence, that she refused to buy pads – She rolled up toilet paper in her underwear to catch the urine. And you know what? She suffered from chronic UTIs! So yes, these urine-absorbing pads can be useful while you are receiving treatments to get rid of the pads!

    Kegels do take time. They must be done correctly and consistently and are definitely worth a try. Check out my how to guide.

  5. YOU DON’T HAVE TO JUST LIVE WITH IT! OR WAIT MONTHS TO SEE RESULTS.

    Kegels can take time and require patience. In my work, I encourage women who are looking for an at-home solution to learn about a new treatment option that amplifies the benefit of Kegels – so women see results faster.

    Flyte by Pelvital is a simple, effective bladder leak treatment for stress urinary incontinence (SUI) that is designed to strengthen and treat weakened pelvic floor muscles at home in just 5 minutes per day.

    Flyte is an at-home intravaginal device that uses mechanotherapy and biofeedback to treat stress urinary incontinence:

    • Mild, moderate or severe female stress urinary incontinence
    • Frequency & volume
    • In a clinical study, 82.9% of women were continent in 6 weeks, which is the standard treatment time (10)
    • FDA cleared

    The Flyte wand is made of medical-grade silicone and is placed in the vagina to deliver the mechanotherapy treatment while you do Kegel contractions.

    During therapy, the Flyte wand sends mechanical pulses to your pelvic floor muscles. The pulses feel like a slight vibration and are not painful. (Note: Flyte is not electrical stimulation. It does not use electrodes, and it does not force your muscles to contract through electrical stimulation, which some women find uncomfortable.) This active Flyte treatment creates a cellular response in your pelvic floor muscles, giving you a stronger pelvic floor and has been clinically proven to improve SUI. This is how Flyte amplifies the benefits of a Kegel by 39 times, helping you see results faster than Kegels alone. (11)

    To learn more about Flyte therapy, visit FlyteTherapy.com

  6. BLADDER LEAKS CAN GET WORSE WITHOUT TREATMENT

    How many times have we ignored our back pain or shoulder pain? Did it go away on its own? Not likely. The same happens with urinary incontinence.

    I’ve seen how bladder leaks affect women’s social lives, activities, confidence, even relationships with partners. I have also seen the medical studies:

    • A 2017 study of female nursing home residents in Switzerland found over 50% of women had urinary incontinence upon admission. More than 80% needed help with their activities of daily living. Urinary incontinence is a strong indicator of functional problems later in life. (12)
    • Women with incontinence have a 41% UTI rate vs 9% without incontinence. (13)

These are all things we want to avoid. We shouldn’t have to just accept this as an inevitable part of being a woman.

There are so many things women can do to tackle the problem. Seek medical care through a healthcare provider, such as an OBGYN or pelvic floor physical therapist. Learn about pelvic floor exercises and at-home options to strengthen the pelvic floor. It’s never too late to get help and live your best life.

Leah Fulker, PT, DPT

Over the last 7 years, Leah Fulker, PT, DPT, has treated a wide variety of pelvic floor conditions including stress urinary incontinence, urge incontinence, overactive bladder (OAB), pelvic pain and prolapse. Since achieving her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2012, she realized the need for pelvic floor therapy and began her certifications in 2014. She has aided in the recovery of many of these conditions during her career. As a mother of two, Leah also recognizes the significant role the pelvic floor plays in pregnancy and post-partum care, as well as in athletic women and women over 50. In addition to being a practicing pelvic floor physical therapist, Leah is the manager of customer care at Pelvital and educates women about Flyte therapy.

References:

  1. Urologyhealth.org. 2021. Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI): Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment – Urology Care Foundation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2021].
  2. Gill, B., Moore, C. and Damaser, M., 2010. Postpartum stress urinary incontinence: lessons from animal models. Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 5(5), pp.567-580.
  3. Teixeira, R., Colla, C., Sbruzzi, G., Mallmann, A. and Paiva, L., 2018. Prevalence of urinary incontinence in female athletes: a systematic review with meta-analysis. International Urogynecology Journal, 29(12), pp.1717-1725.
  4. Pires, T., Pires, P., Moreira, H. and Viana, R., 2020. Prevalence of Urinary Incontinence in High-Impact Sport Athletes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Human Kinetics, 73(1), pp.279-288.
  5. University of Michigan. 2021. Nearly Half of Women Over 50 Experience Incontinence, but Most Haven’t Talked to a Doctor. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2021].
  6. Allinahealth.org. 2021. If you need to stop exercising for any reason how fast will you fall out of shape? [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2021].
  7. McKendry, J., Shad, B., Smeuninx, B., Oikawa, S., Wallis, G., Greig, C., Phillips, S. and Breen, L., 2019. Comparable Rates of Integrated Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Between Endurance-Trained Master Athletes and Untrained Older Individuals. Frontiers in Physiology, 10.
  8. Qaseem, A., Dallas, P., Forciea, M., Starkey, M., Denberg, T. and Shekelle, P., 2014. Nonsurgical Management of Urinary Incontinence in Women: A Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine, 161(6), p.429.
  9. Subak, L., Brubaker, L., Chai, T., Creasman, J., Diokno, A., Goode, P., Kraus, S., Kusek, J., Leng, W., Lukacz, E., Norton, P. and Tennstedt, S., 2008. High Costs of Urinary Incontinence Among Women Electing Surgery to Treat Stress Incontinence. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 111(4), pp.899-907.
  10. Nakib, N., Sutherland, S. and Hallman, K., 2021. Novel Pelvic Floor Treatment with Mechanotherapy: Final Clinical Trial Results in Women with Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). [online] ICS. Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2021].
  11. Nilsen, I., Rebolledo, G., Acharya, G. and Leivseth, G., 2018. Mechanical oscillations superimposed on the pelvic floor muscles during Kegel exercises reduce urine leakage in women suffering from stress urinary incontinence: A prospective cohort study with a 2-year follow up. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 97(10), pp.1185-1191.
  12. Schumpf, L., Theill, N., Scheiner, D., Fink, D., Riese, F. and Betschart, C., 2017. Urinary incontinence and its association with functional physical and cognitive health among female nursing home residents in Switzerland. BMC Geriatrics, 17(1).
  13. Raz, R., 2011. Urinary Tract Infection in Postmenopausal Women. Korean Journal of Urology, 52(12), pp.801-808. Postmenopausal Women. Korean Journal of Urology, 52(12), pp.801-808.

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