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din
10-16-2010, 04:04 AM
How I Use Exercise to Fight Incontinence

Karen McCarty, a 41-year-old clinical secretary from Northern Virginia, first struggled with incontinence after the birth of her second child. Exercise has been key in controlling her constant urge to go, according to McCarty.
Karen McCarty, a 41-year-old clinical secretary from Northern Virginia, first struggled with incontinence after the birth of her second child. Exercise has been key in controlling her constant urge to go, according to McCarty.

http://img2.timeinc.net/health/images/journeys/incontinence/karen-mccarty-122x122.jpg
After I had my second child in 2005 I was just a mess.

My first child was born in 2003 by a C-section without any problems. But with my second child, I had what they call a VBAC—a vaginal birth after a C-section—and my daughter was a big baby. She tore me apart. After that, I just always had to go. A year and a half after giving birth I had to have reconstructive surgery. The doctor said I had prolapse (http://www.health.com/health/library/topic/0,,tv1000_tv1003,00.html), a condition in which a pelvic organ drops from its normal spot in your belly and pushes against the vagina.

My doctor told me that it wasn’t worth fixing entirely because it could just make my incontinence worse. He basically said that if I stuck to doing Kegel exercises (http://www.health.com/health/library/mdp/0,,hw220109,00.html), exercises that strengthen the pelvic muscles, everything should be fine.

But nobody ever remembers to do their Kegels! Of course they would help, but they’re kind of uncomfortable and a little weird!

Exercise has helped me because I end up doing Kegels inadvertently. When you do squats and even lunges, you’re tightening those muscles sometimes without even realizing it.

I’ve been an avid gym-goer for the past year, and I love doing the group exercise classes at my gym. I finally found a gym I like with a great instructor. I never used to do this, but now I’ve been going to the gym five or six days a week for about two hours at a time.

The only problem is I try not to drink too much water when I’m exercising—which is really the opposite of what you’re supposed to do! But if I have anything in my bladder, it will slow me down and I’ll be focused on having to go rather than fully participating in and enjoying the class.

I take two classes back-to-back at the gym, and I always have to go to the bathroom in between. The second class is high cardio—there’s a lot of movement. You could be jumping up and down doing jumping jacks, you could be jogging in place, you could be running all over. I have to time everything just right as I run to the bathroom so I don’t lose my spot in the class.

And it turns out I’m not the only one! There’s two other women I see regularly, and we all run to the bathroom and run back. We all just laugh about it.


As told to: Sarah Klein
Last Updated: October 11, 2010