As more and more young women run as their primary form of exercise, it follows that a growing number of running moms are seeking help with postpartum urinary incontinence.
Having a baby moves hip bones, stretches muscles and puts a lot of stress on a woman's pelvic floor.
Kegels can work for some, but physical therapist Chelsea Athing Berman of Experience Momentum in Lynnwood believes that by strengthening one's core and using other large muscles to support the pelvic floor, most women can run again without worry.
“Physical therapy can do a lot,” said Berman, whose specialty is women's health. “One in three young moms have incontinence problems, but they're not talking about it with each other. It's time that we get this out there. Too many people think there is nothing to be done.
“Worrying about peeing your pants when you run should not have to be a woman's cross to bear for having a baby.”
Tricia Winters, 31, of Bothell, said she sought physical therapy because she wants to continue running marathons.
However, her first trouble with incontinence came when, six months after her daughter was born, she was playing indoor soccer.
“I stretched out my leg to stop the ball, and I couldn't believe that I urinated,” Winters said. “I yelled out, ‘I just peed myself.' Everyone laughed, but I knew then I wanted to do something to get control.”
Physical therapy helped her learn how to run again, Winters said.
“My weight distribution is different now. I had to stop waddling like I did when I was pregnant and get my legs to go straight and forward,” Winters said.
“I also had to get my upper body to relax. I had been holding my shoulders tight when I was carrying my baby.”
Core strength, along with lower back and hip support of the pelvic area are keys to eliminating incontinence worries, Berman said. Squats and lunges in various directions, for example, are part of the workout for her running mom patients, she said.
Jenni Ricker, 32, a Lynnwood chiropractor, sought Berman's help after her youngest child was born about 10 months ago.
Like many women who started running in high school and college, Ricker continues to count on being able to jog for exercise.
“Our bodies are resilient,” Ricker said. “But modern birth procedures, including the use of pitocin (a drug that induces labor), have made it hard on some women.”
It wasn't long after she started physical therapy that Ricker returned to being able to run, cough, sneeze and lift her kids without the worry of unwanted urination, Berman said.
“It was nice to hear that I wasn't alone with this problem,” Ricker said. “I would encourage women before they get pregnant to work on strength training.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the office of physical therapist Chelsea Athing Berman, call 425-776-0803.
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