Urinary Incontinence in Young and Active Women

A Incontinência Urinária na Mulher Jovem e Ativa

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine, according to the International Continence Society. It can be exertional and occur occasionally (coughing, sneezing, jumping or during physical activity), urgent or a combination of both (mixed urinary incontinence).

It is common to associate urinary incontinence with pregnancy and childbirth, or with older women (menopausal). Urinary incontinence in young, nulliparous (who do not have children) and physically active women is still very little talked about. Especially because there is still the belief that active women have a strong pelvic floor, something that can be questioned according to the most recent scientific evidence. Likewise, it is also believed that if a woman loses urine when performing physical activity, it is because she pushed her body to the limit and performed a demanding workout.

The optimal function of the pelvic floor muscles is multifactorial, that is, it does not simply depend on the strength of these muscles. For example, an important factor is the position of these muscles in the pelvis, as this can counteract the increase in intra-abdominal pressure during intense, high-impact physical activity. Therefore, it is worth demystifying another false idea: women with regular and intense physical activity are very unlikely to develop urinary incontinence. There is scientific evidence that proves exactly the opposite. Women with intense and regular physical activity (and especially high impact, such as trampolining, running, etc.) are more likely to develop urinary incontinence due to exertion. But none of this means that women should suspend physical activity in order to prevent the onset of urinary incontinence.

Stay alert and seek specialized assistance.

It is important to be aware and seek help if you experience urinary loss (in any situation), in order to be properly assessed by a specialist physiotherapist. If you do not have any symptoms, you should try to learn more about the pelvic floor muscles, where they are located, what their function is, what you should do during physical activity or as a complement to prevent the onset of urinary incontinence.

Here is an important caveat: before starting any specific exercise for these muscles, be evaluated by a physiotherapist. Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor (the famous kegel exercises) are not a basic recipe for all women. Sometimes, it is just necessary to correct your posture during physical activity, or complement it with mobility exercises. Consult an appropriate and individualized assessment by a specialist professional (pelvic physiotherapist).


Text: Ana Sofia Pires, women's physiotherapist, co-founder of the FisioDuasMãos office and founder of the page @fisio_mulher_e_mae .

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