You heard me right. This week I had my appointment at the Bladder Clinic. I wasn’t going to write this post, but it really is time to lift the lid on talking about having a weak Pelvic Floor and how they can affect us women.
I mentioned in a past post that I was taking my health by the scruff of the neck and being pro-active instead of reactive; well this is one of those issues. I probably should have dealt with this long ago, but like many women out there admitting to yourself that you have a weak bladder or pelvic floor to someone is really quite cringe worthy embarrassing. But I have had enough of ‘leakage’ when I cough and worrying when I have to run for a train in London. ENOUGH!
So this is how it went. I pulled up at a very ‘old’ hospital which is now for outpatient appointments. It is the sort of building seen in ‘Carry on Hospitals’. When I entered in through the double doors it was empty with no receptions. Just lots of posters and chairs in what was the waiting room. There was one elderly gentleman sitting in the waiting room and after about 10 minutes of watching me walking aimlessly around he informed me that I sit down and they just come and get me. O K A Y. Not helping my nerves at this point. It soon became clear that his wife was the one currently being seen by the bladder/bowel nurse, because not only was this hospital old, it was NOT SOUNDPROOF (and yes this does deserve Capitals)!!! Was it not bad enough having to deal with bladder issues at 41 years old? I was also having to listen to the full revelations of the poor elderly lady before me and it was almost threw me over the edge altogether!
There was no running (Pardon the pun here) because I was there and needed to get this sorted after all. I am pretty sure there are MANY MANY women who have issues with their pelvic floor following on from Childbirth. Roger keeps telling me that he doesn’t remember me doing my exercises after I had the boys. Pah! Of course I did…or did I?
*warning do not read if easily embarrassed*
The nurse was lovely. The nurse and I talked through my 3 day chart that I had been asked to fill out showing my intake of fluid and the level of urine passed each time, there was also a box to tick if you had any leakage. I was informed that I was drinking plenty (Quite a lot) and far too much tea and coffee! I was also passing plenty of urine. Filling in a chart for 3 days is just a peek into your lifestyle. It is hard to be completely accurate, because on the days that I was filling out for I was at home, I could quite easily been in London taking Archie to Castings and then the chart would have been completely different.
Next came a scan of my bladder to see how much urine was left in the bladder after I had already gone to have a wee. I only had around 25ml left in my bladder which she seemed to think was quite good.
**Double Double Warning – DO NOT READ if you are easily embarrassed**
This is not easy for me to write, but I vowed to be honest because I want to inspire others that It is okay to go the the doctors about this kind of stuff. So here goes.
I had to show the nurse how I was working my Pelvic Floor – Yes I had to do the exercise whilst she watched. The examination was all very discreet because I was covered in a towel, no different to a smear test I suppose. However I did feel slightly exposed. More to the point, it appeared that I had been doing my Pelvic floor completely wrong all these years, because the movement she showed me was totally not what I remember post Childbirth! Ooops.
So how do you know you are doing it correctly
If only I had seen this nurse 19 years ago is all I keep thinking. The way she has described doing pelvic floor exercises to me is like this:
*Imagine there you are picking up a coin with only your vagina* It really is that gently and simple. You shouldn’t be moving your stomach muscles at all or feeling it in your stomach.
Note: Do not actually use a real coin!!
Following on from this she did a ‘vaginal sweep’ (Again much like they do to help induce labour). She did this examination because she can feel the bladder and the bowel this way, which may or may not have caved slightly. My bladder is very ever so slightly collapsing into the vaginal wall, which means that after I pee, there may be a tiny bit of urine hiding in that bladder pocket, which could explain why after peeing, I quite often need to go again.
Nurse Tip * Try standing up after peeing and doing a dance around, chances are you will release that pocket of wee and can then go again before leaving the bathroom.
(Not sure how that will go when busting for the loo in Kings Cross).
I then had to repeat the pelvic floor exercise ‘whilst her finger was there’ so she could feel the strength of my pelvic floor muscle. This I believe was possibly the most embarrassed I felt.
Turns out mine is pretty weak. “No Shit Sherlock” sprang to mind, because I am now thinking having 3 children (now of respective ages of 19, 16 and 10) all of which were fast births and doing probably the ‘wrong’ pelvic floor exercises all those years ago.
All is not lost…
So according to my bladder nurse that by doing the set of pelvic floor exercises correctly over a twelve week period I can really tone up the pelvic floor. This is good news. My tiny collapsed bladder pocket won’t get better, but by doing these exercises it means it won’t get any worse! There are surgical options, but the nurse was quite insistent that I shouldn’t go down this route at the age of 41. (To be completely honest with you, if I can avoid surgery I will. Believe me I have had my fair share of surgical procedures, so avoidance is good).
Apparently the chances of me doing high impact exercise in the future are going to be very slim. I did a celebratory dance in my head – Silver Lining and all that. To be honest high impact exercise isn’t high on my list. Doing Yoga is, so that is a target for me.
SLOW 1. Squeeze and hold for the count of 5
Relax for the count of 5
Repeat 5 times
FAST 2. Squeeze and release 5 times
Repeat this exercise 3 times a day
According to the fact sheet the nurse gave me, caffeine is a high bladder irritant. DAMN. So it was suggested that I switch to decaf. Hmm not happy about this. I am yet to find one that I like.
I also have to increase my water intake, which to be completely honest is currently zero (BAD BAD I KNOW).
Now Caffeine isn’t the ONLY thing to cause irritated bladder. It can also be caused from smoking and certain medication, but Caffeine is the biggest irritant.
I have to go back in 6 weeks to discuss my progress and then at the 12 week check we do the same examinations as in the first appointment. So I can’t cheat, because the nurse will know. Besides I have come this far, it would be silly to cheat wouldn’t it?
So I hope that this hasn’t embarrassed you too much and that if like me you have a bit of a weak bladder due to pelvic floor weakness you will be inspired to do something about it.
P.S I think I am going to create a couple of fact sheets based on the information that I have been given. Make sure you are on my email list and I will let you know when it is available to download.
Link to NHS Direct