5 Ways to Maintain Health and Wellness Over 40

Many women look forward to their 40s: there’s so much joy to be had! That’s why maintaining your health over 40 is so essential. With the right approach, you can keep your body feeling energetic and limber for decades to come. Getting fit over 40 means you can focus on the important things: long summer walks, spending time with friends, enjoying happy hour after work–everything you love about your day to day life.

After all, 40 is just a number. But it’s a good time to check in with your OBGYN and see what you should be doing to take an active role in maintaining your health and wellness.

1. Change the Way You Exercise

No matter how old you are, your doctor will probably have two pieces of advice for you: eat better and exercise more. That’s still true as you approach 40… but it’s also different. 

As you age, your ligaments and tendons can start to tighten up or weaken–and your joints can start to feel the wear and tear. This can make an athletic injury–everything from a pulled muscle to a ruptured Achilles tendon–more likely to occur.

So your doctor may tell you that getting fit over 40 means changing the way you exercise. In general, that means following some advice:

  • Listen to your body: When you were 25 you might have fought through those aches and pains. But you’re wiser now. Sudden pain or soreness is your body trying to tell you something! Better health over 40 means being smart enough to listen!
  • Warm up: You should take five or ten minutes before every workout to warm up a little bit. You could go for a fast-paced walk around the block or even try out a light jog–just make sure it’s low intensity. Warm ups are designed to get you limber and make athletic injuries less likely.
  • Stretch before and after: No matter what kind of exercise you engage in–whether you’re playing racquetball or going for a run–it’s important to stretch before and after your workout. It’s good for your muscles, sure–but it’s also essential for those tendons and ligaments.

2. Work on Building Muscle and Developing Flexibility

Staying in the exercise vein, the next way you can help maintain your health over 40 is to place a slightly different emphasis on your workout. 

As most women reach the age of forty, they’re usually advised to start putting a focus on building muscle and flexibility. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the primary factor is that your body’s ability to build muscle diminishes significantly with age.

The muscle you create (and the flexibility you develop) when you’re 40 will be incredibly useful as you get older. As a result, adding some weight lifting or muscle building activities to your workout can help you maintain your wellness as you age.

Getting fit over 40 means not only do you need muscle–you need flexibility, too. The flexibility you gain in your 40s can really come in handy as you age. Adding yoga or pilates to your workout routine might be just the thing to help you feel good and stay flexible.

3. Eat Breakfast

If you’re in your forties, you’re probably realizing one thing: you’re busy! Your career is successful, you’re managing your household, maybe you’re even starting to get your kids ready for college–you’ve got a lot to do! So you might be tempted to skip breakfast once or twice… or seven times a week.

The first meal of the day might seem trivial, but there are plenty of studies which suggest that eating a healthy (and filling) breakfast can be essential. In part, that’s because your metabolism changes as you age. Skipping breakfast when you’re over 40 might leave you hungrier throughout the day or otherwise throw off your eating routines. In general, try to:

  • Eat a high carb or high protein breakfast everyday. This will help keep you fuller longer. (Though you should always ask your physician what kind of diet is going to keep you healthy over 40.)
  • Try to keep your breakfast balanced and nutritious. But if the thought of oatmeal makes you want to skip this meal, it’s okay to eat something else instead.
  • Consider adding supplemental vitamins and minerals to your breakfast. If your doctor says you might want to start building up your calcium or get some extra vitamin B or D, breakfast is the perfect time to get your pills out of the way.

4. Get to Know Yourself

Your 40s are a perfect time to take a breath and… look inward. Get to know yourself a little bit. There are a couple of ways that this could have a big impact on your wellness and health over 40. For example:

  • You can get to know your family history: Knowledge is power. The more information you’re able to gather or collect about your family’s medical history, the better you’ll be able to understand your own risks. If your family has a history of certain types of cancer, for example, you may wish to begin some screenings earlier. 
  • You can get to know your own personal health: Turning 40 is the perfect moment to start thinking long term about your own health. That means taking the time to become familiar with your own numbers: your cholesterol, your body weight, your blood sugar levels. These all have a bearing on your wellness moving forward–and 40 provides an excellent moment to take a benchmark reading of all these numbers.
  • Quit some of those bad habits: If you’re a smoker, 40 is the perfect time to stop. That’s because, frankly, any time is a good time to stop smoking! We certainly understand it’s not always easy, that’s why your physician is here to provide help if you need it. Quitting smoking can be a big step–and it’s one your health will thank you for.

5. Pay Attention to Your Reproductive Care

You’ve just turned 40, which means it’s a great time to talk to your OBGYN! As you age, your reproductive system goes through significant changes. Perimenopause will usually begin sometime during your 40s, so it’s important to pay attention to changes in your reproductive health. You’ll want to be on the lookout for changes in your periods, of course, but most OBGYNs recommend a more comprehensive approach.

Discussing these issues candidly can help you address problems quickly and effectively, so you can get clarity and know what to expect every step of the way.

Maintain Your Health Over 40!

Staying healthy over 40 is all about one thing: making sure you have the time of your life! There’s so much you want to be doing, and your 40s are the perfect time for travel, adventure, and family. With the right approach, staying healthy over 40 means you can stress less and enjoy more.

Want to know more about maintaining your health and wellness over 40? Schedule a visit with an OBGYN at our Wilmette or Glenview offices. Make an appointment today to make sure you enjoy your 40s!

Breech Pregnancy and Delivery

As your excitement builds and your due date approaches, your OBGYN or midwife will usually perform a series of routine tests to ensure that your soon-to-be-born baby is facing the right direction. Normally, your baby will prepare itself for delivery by “flipping,” ensuring that their head is pointed down towards the birth canal. When this doesn’t occur, when the baby’s body remains oriented with the head up, special steps have to be taken to ensure a healthy delivery. This is called a breech pregnancy and delivery.

A baby in the breech position at the time of delivery occurs in roughly 3-4% of all pregnancies. So while a breech pregnancy is uncommon, it’s not rare–and your team will be well equipped to handle the situation, keeping you and your baby safe through your breech pregnancy and delivery.

What is a Breech Pregnancy?

Technically, a breech position will not be declared until after week 35 or 36 of your pregnancy. It’s at this point that the baby would have normally flipped and adopted a position in which the head is facing towards the birth canal. When the head continues to instead face away from the birth canal, a breech presentation is diagnosed. 

There are several different ways in which a breech pregnancy may occur:

  • Footing breech: A footing breech presents when one or both of the baby’s feet are pointing down, towards the birth canal.
  • Frank breech: A frank breech occurs when the baby’s feet are curled up near the head and the buttocks are directed towards the birth canal.
  • Complete breech: In the case of a complete breech, the buttocks are still pointed towards the birth canal, but the legs are folded up beneath the child. The feet are near the buttocks.  

Your OBGYN will determine whether your baby is in breech position by feeling the outside of your belly in order to locate the position of the baby’s head within your uterus. A breech presentation is then confirmed with a diagnostic ultrasound. Once the ultrasound is complete, you’ll have a much better idea of the position of your baby.

 

Risk Factors for Breech Pregnancy

No one is entirely sure what causes some women to experience breech pregnancy while others do not. However, researchers have identified some factors that may increase your risk of a breech pregnancy and delivery. Those factors include:

  • A pregnancy with multiple babies (such as twins or triplets).
  • Multiple pregnancies, especially in quick succession with little time between them.
  • A history of preterm labor or birth.
  • Uterine fibroids or other abnormalities in the shape of the uterus.
  • A lack or excess of amniotic fluid in the uterus (this can impact the baby’s ability to move around).
  • The occurrence of placenta previa in the mother.

These risk factors are not necessarily evidence of a cause and effect relationship, nor should they ever be a reason to place blame in the event of a breech pregnancy. Instead, risk factors for breech pregnancy and delivery indicate a statistical relationship–so your OBGYN or midwife may suggest a change in behavior to help you manage risks. 

 

How is Breech Pregnancy Treated?

Breech pregnancy and delivery can be potentially hazardous both to the mother and to the child. 

There are some steps your OBGYN can take to encourage your baby to “flip” to a safer birthing position. If a breech delivery is unavoidable, your doctor will be able to guide you through the safest choices–both for you and for your baby. 

Once a breech presentation is detected, you’ll have several treatment options–especially if you are not in labor yet. Some OBGYNs will begin first with non-invasive and at-home therapies, such as the following:

  • Music: Some evidence suggests music and voices can help encourage your baby to move while in the womb–so some women will put a speaker near the bottom of their belly to encourage the desired flip.
  • Relaxation: Tension in the uterus can prevent the baby from moving, so expectant moms are often advised to seek out activities that are deliberately relaxing. Yoga and meditation sometimes fit the bill, but often the activity is up to the individual.
  • “The Breech Tilt:” This technique relies on strategically stacked pillows to help women sit and lay at prescribed angles–the hope being that this angle encourages the baby to move its head towards the birth canal.
  • Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture and chiropractic visits may be able to assist in encouraging a breech or malpositioned baby to flip to a head down position. Acupuncturists can perform a procedure called Moxibustion and chiropractors use a treatment called the Webster Maneuver–all designed to encourage the baby to flip to a head down position. We often suggest the website Spinning Babies to patients who want to learn more about possible alternative therapies. 

The primary medical treatment for a breech presentation is a procedure called external cephalic version (or ECV). This procedure is scheduled at a hospital as an outpatient procedure. During an ECV procedure, the mother will likely be given medications that help relax the uterus. Once those medications take effect, your OBGYN will attempt to encourage the baby to change positions by applying pressure on the outside of your belly. 

An ultrasound scan is sometimes used to help guide the procedure. Additionally, the baby’s heart rate will be monitored at all times during the procedure. Because firm pressure is often used, some women may find the experience mildly uncomfortable, so pain management medications can be made available. 

An ECV procedure may not be right for everyone (for example, if you’ve had a significantly elevated amount of vaginal bleeding, or react adversely to medications), so it’s important to talk over all your options on an individual basis with your OBGYN.

ECV has a high success rate–but there are some instances in which it doesn’t work. Even in some cases where a baby successfully flips to the correct birthing position during ECV, the baby may sometimes flip back to a breech position. You and your OBGYN will monitor the baby’s position carefully as your due date approaches.

 

Delivery During a Breech Birth

If your OBGYN is not able to successfully move the baby, the most likely outcome is delivery via Cesarean section. That’s because breech birth has the potential to cause complications for both the mother and the baby. This is a decision that mothers will make in consultation with their OBGYN as delivery approaches.

In some cases, vaginal delivery with a breech birth can be done with relative safety, but only during very specific conditions. Those conditions include:

  • Anesthesia is close at hand and surgery for Cesarean delivery can begin at a moment’s notice.
  • The labor process has gone smoothly and with no trouble.
  • The baby is not showing any signs of distress (and continues to show no signs of danger during delivery).
  • The baby is in the frank breech position.
  • The baby is full term.
  • Your OBGYN decides it is safe to proceed.

In most cases however, it’s going to be safer for both the baby and the mother to deliver the child via a c-section. You’ll want to discuss all of your delivery options with your OBGYN so you’re prepared to weigh the pros and cons of any decision.

 

The Right Breech Solution For You

Anxiety and fear are normal responses when confronted with the possibility of a breech pregnancy and delivery. After all, you want what’s best for your baby, and a breech presentation could mean possible complications. At the very least, you might have to change your birthing plans.

Having a trusted OBGYN and midwife team can be essential–and can make the process so much easier. When you have the right medical information, you can make the best decision for you, your baby, and your family.

If you’re worried about the possibility of a breech pregnancy and delivery and want to talk to an OBGYN, contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices today to schedule a consultation!

 

Drinking and Smoking During Pregnancy

You gain so much when you learn you’re pregnant. The world opens up with all kinds of new possibilities as you get ready to welcome a brand new member to your family! So it seems like a small thing to temporarily give up some habits that aren’t all that healthy for you anyway. That might be why one of the most common pieces of advice you’ll get when you become pregnant is that you should refrain from drinking and smoking during pregnancy.

That’s because smoking and drinking during pregnancy can both have significant and long term health consequences for your developing baby. When you abstain from even small amounts of alcohol and tobacco, you give your baby the best chance for a happy and healthy childhood!

 

The Dangers of Alcohol and Tobacco

Casual drinking at social events is incredibly common. Maybe you raise a glass of wine (or two) at celebrations. Perhaps you’ve been known to enjoy a beer with your friends after a long day of work. However, for all their social acceptance, alcohol and tobacco products can be quite harmful to your health.

And while they are often lumped together, alcohol and tobacco are two very different substances that produce vastly different effects on the body. Some of those impacts are immediate, while others become chronic. 

One characteristic that alcohol and tobacco have in common, however, is that they are both detrimental for a fetus. Even small amounts of one or the other can lead to significant and lifelong consequences for the child.

 

The Dangers of Alcohol and Drinking During Pregnancy

Because alcohol is ingested, the substance has a fairly easy path to the fetus, in most cases arriving via the placenta. Because a fetus absorbs alcohol more slowly (and less ably) than an adult, even small amounts of liquor can produce lasting and severe consequences by interfering with oxygen and nutrition delivery. As a result, drinking during pregnancy can often cause a condition known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can manifest in several ways, including the following:

  • Cognitive and nervous system problems: For children growing up, cognitive and nervous system issues might include everything from attention disorders to poor judgment skills. In more severe cases, this may also manifest as intellectual disabilities and learning disorders. 
  • Behavior and social issues: These types of problems can include difficulty staying on task or controlling impulses. FAS-caused behavioral and social issues may also include trouble getting along with others or problems paying attention. 
  • Physical deformities: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can cause certain physical deformities, such as a small brain size or head size, vision problems, heart defects, and even slow growth after birth.

This list is not exhaustive, nor is it mutually exclusive. It’s possible for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to cause a wide variety of behavioral and physical problems to present simultaneously.

 

The Dangers of Smoking During Pregnancy

Smoking tobacco is not a healthy lifestyle choice. Cigarettes in particular (but not exclusively) contain a sordid array of chemicals that will do you harm to your body. And, of course, everything in a cigarette will find its way to your child as well, whether you’re pregnant or nursing. This can produce multiple issues in your baby. The dangers of smoking during pregnancy include:

  • Fetal brain damage: Lack of oxygen in the bloodstream due to smoking cigarettes can cause significant brain damage during the development of the fetus. 
  • Fetal lung damage: Likewise, nicotine and other chemicals can cause damage to the fetal lungs during gestation. This can lead to long term breathing problems once your child is born.
  • Cleft lip: Some research suggests a link between smoking while pregnant and children born with a cleft lip.
  • Miscarriage: Research also suggests that smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products during pregnancy can increase your risk of miscarriage or pregnancy loss. 

By now, it’s common knowledge that smoking will diminish your overall health. Having a baby can be both physically and emotionally demanding. When your body’s ability to recover and recuperate is diminished, pregnancy and childbirth will become more taxing still, which could lead to unpredictable health issues for both expectant mothers and their children.

That’s why it’s recommended for your own health and for your infant’s health that you stop smoking as quickly as possible. You can talk to your doctor about medications and strategies that can help you leave your cigarette habit behind quickly as possible.

 

Quantity Matters

In terms of both smoking and alcohol use, it’s important to point out that quantity matters. The more alcohol you consume, the greater your child’s risk of developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Likewise, the resulting health impacts will likely be more severe. The same is true of smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products.

The less you use alcohol or tobacco products while you’re pregnant, the better. That’s why the standing advice is for women to avoid both alcohol and cigarettes for the duration of their pregnancies. That said, most physicians will tell you that there is no amount of drinking or smoking during pregnancy considered “safe.” 

 

What About Vaping or Cannabis?

Because vaping hasn’t been extensively studied yet, some people have a tendency to look at it as a “safer” alternative to smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily born out in the data, and the risks around vaping–particularly while pregnant–aren’t especially well understood. That’s why most medical professionals will strongly caution against vaping while pregnant.

Not only do most vape cartridges contain nicotine, but there are various other propellants and chemicals involved in the process. We don’t know enough yet about how those added chemicals may impact a developing fetus. That’s why the general recommendations around vaping are the same as they are around cigarettes: do not engage in this activity while you are pregnant.

The same is true of cannabis use. Because it has NOT been proven safe, most OBGYNs and physicians will recommend that pregnant women abstain from using any Cannabis or CBD products.

 

When Should I Quit? And What if I Have Trouble?

Most research suggests that even small amounts of alcohol and tobacco products at any point during your pregnancy can cause harm or increase risks. In theory, damage may occur before you even know you’re pregnant, which is why some experts call for sexually active women to abstain from alcohol or tobacco use.

That isn’t realistic for everyone. As a result, most women will follow this relatively simple guidance: stop smoking or drinking as soon as you think you might be pregnant. 

Dependence issues involving both alcohol and nicotine can make quitting difficult. In general, it’s recommended that women undergo treatment for any dependence before becoming pregnant. That’s not always possible, of course. If you should find yourself both pregnant and, for example, dependent upon alcohol, your OBGYN may be able to offer helpful solutions that keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.

 

Get the Help You Need to Stay Healthy

Alcohol and cigarette use represent known risks. Research has conclusively proven that the chances of negative outcomes for your baby increase when cigarettes and alcohol are consumed by the expectant mother. 

That’s why abstaining from drinking and smoking during your pregnancy is so important. You can help give your baby the best chance at a healthy, happy life! And if you have trouble, there are ways that your OBGYN can offer help, letting you kick those bad habits for good! 

To find out more about the risks of drinking and smoking or talk about the best way to quit, contact our Wilmette and Glenview offices to make an appointment today!

Miscarriage

In late September of 2020, celebrities Chrissy Teigen and John Legend announced on social media that they had experienced a pregnancy loss. The two shared pictures of their misfortune, sparking a wider conversation about miscarriages–a topic that is often avoided in wider conversations but one with which many women have some direct or indirect experience. 

Conversationally, most people refer to nearly all pregnancy losses as miscarriages. Clinically, however, a miscarriage is a loss that occurs before 20 weeks gestational age. Pregnancy losses that happen beyond 20 weeks are referred to as stillbirths. Both are emotionally charged terms, which can help explain why, for example, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend might refer to their “miscarriage” when what they clinically experienced was a “stillbirth.”

A miscarriage can be an especially distressing time for women and their families. But it’s important to remember that miscarriages often happen for inexplicable reasons–they most often have nothing to do with the health, habits, or behaviors of the mother. Nor do miscarriages necessarily portend future trouble with conception or childbearing. Learning more about miscarriages can help ensure everyone understands there is no blame to assign–understanding instead that emotional support can help the healing process begin in earnest.

 

How Common Are Miscarriages?

According to most studies, something like 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. If that number seems staggering–or nearly impossible–to you, that’s because most of these miscarriages occur before you know you’re pregnant or before you’ve even missed your menstrual period.

Once a pregnancy is recognized, roughly 15-20% of them typically end in miscarriage, and these miscarriages will occur before the 20th week. That’s why many informal and unwritten social norms have developed around delaying public pregnancy announcements until after the 20th week.

While it may not be often–or loudly–spoken about, miscarriages do impact a statistically small but significant number of women. So if you experience a miscarriage, know that you are not alone, and you’ll be able to find help and support in the community of those around you. 

That said, there is also no reason to expect or anticipate a typical pregnancy will end in anything other than a healthy birth.

 

Miscarriage Symptoms

A miscarriage may occur at any point throughout your pregnancy, though they do tend to be significantly more common during the first trimester. Miscarriage symptoms may include the following:

  • Bleeding: When the bleeding progresses from light to heavy, that could be a sign of a miscarriage.
  • Presence of Tissue: Sometimes during a miscarriage, you may pass tissue that looks like small blood clots through your vagina. This could be an indication of a miscarriage.
  • Belly or back pain
  • Contractions or severe cramps: It’s not unusual to experience contractions during a miscarriage. The presence of cramping that does not diminish should be reported to your OBGYN or midwife.
  • Discharge: A white, pink mucus or discharge can sometimes indicate a miscarriage has occurred.
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fever: If fever accompanies any of these other symptoms, you may be experiencing a miscarriage and you should contact your OBGYN.

If you experience any combination of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately. Your OBGYN or midwife will be able to tell you whether you should visit a clinic or head to the emergency room, depending on your individual symptoms. 

 

What Causes a Miscarriage?

  • The causes of miscarriages tend to vary from person to person, so there’s no single determinant that is easily identifiable (and, therefore, easy to avoid). In general, miscarriages are caused by a fatal genetic defect in the fetus. This genetic defect, then, leads to the fetus becoming inviable. 
  • In almost all cases, this genetic defect has absolutely nothing to do with the mother. A preconception appointment and exam can help evaluate your overall reproductive health if you’re thinking about having a child or have become pregnant.

There are some known issues that can possibly cause an increase in overall risk of miscarriage. Most of these risk factors do not cause a miscarriage on their own–they simply increase the statistical probability that a miscarriage could happen. Those risk factors include:

  • The use of illegal or “street” drugs, especially while you’re pregnant.
  • The use of alcohol or the smoking of tobacco products while you’re pregnant.
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or genetic predisposition .
  • Uterine abnormalities or physical problems with the mother.
  • Issues with hormones or the immune system.
  • Multiple miscarriages; having over three past miscarriages can increase your risk of having another miscarriage

How these risk factors interact isn’t always well understood. However, the fewer risk factors you have, the less likely you may be to experience a miscarriage. But it’s also important to understand that sometimes miscarriages occur regardless of risk factors–there’s most often no fault or blame involved.

 

Types of Miscarriages

Not all miscarriages occur or present in the same ways. As a result, doctors and researchers have identified several different types of miscarriages. The most common types of miscarriages include:

  • Inevitable miscarriage: You have several signs and symptoms of a miscarriage and the cervix has dilated. In these circumstances, miscarriage is very likely.
  • Threatened miscarriage: You have several signs and symptoms of a miscarriage, including bleeding, but the cervix has not dilated. In these cases, miscarriage may not always happen.
  • Complete miscarriage: If your miscarriage happens before the 12th week, a complete miscarriage usually results. During a complete miscarriage, all tissue is expelled from the uterus.
  • Incomplete miscarriage: In some cases, tissue from the pregnancy may not be expelled from the uterus. An incomplete miscarriage may require further treatment to remove those tissues. When this occurs prior to embryo formation, it’s called a “missed miscarriage.”
  • Recurrent miscarriage: This type of miscarriage impacts only 1% or so of women who miscarry. A Recurrent miscarriage is the diagnosis when a woman experiences at least three miscarriages in a row during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Depending on the type of miscarriage you experience, additional treatment may be required for either your general health or your reproductive health. You can talk to your OBGYN about any wellness concerns you might have and what your treatment options are likely to be.

 

Does a Miscarriage Lower Your Chances of Having Another Baby?

There’s often a period of grief associated with a miscarriage. That grief is exceptionally normal. Those who experience a miscarriage may find solace in the support of their friends and family; support groups can also help families process the grief they feel. 

One of the most common questions that springs from this grief is about the long term chances of expanding your family. For the vast majority of women, a miscarriage will not have any impact on your ability to have children in the future. Indeed, most women are able to eventually go on and have additional children.

Some research suggests that having children sooner after your miscarriage may be more likely to result in a successful birth. But it’s important that you take the necessary time to process your miscarriage and your experiences. In other words, you should only move forward when you feel ready. 

Recurrent miscarriages impact only 1% of all those who miscarry. But for those who do experience multiple miscarriages, there may be treatment options available that can help increase your ability to conceive and have children in a healthy way.

 

Talking About Miscarriage

If there’s one thing Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s transparency during their own experience with miscarriage taught us, it’s that they aren’t alone. Their experience resonated with millions of women and families who may have otherwise remained silent about their own miscarriages.

We can find comfort from our shared experiences, however. If you have concerns about a miscarriage or want to discuss your reproductive health, you should talk to your OBGYN right away. 

Contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule an appointment.

Urinary Incontinence

Over 33 million people in America experience urinary incontinence of some kind. That makes urinary incontinence quite common, especially for women–who experience these issues at twice the rate as men. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean you have to accept the discomfort of urinary incontinence symptoms as natural or inevitable.

With the right treatments and therapies, urinary incontinence can often be managed so successfully that you’ll be able to leisurely enjoy your next family get together or take your time on a long hike through the park without a second thought.

 

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Female urinary incontinence is usually defined as the temporary loss of bladder control or as a urinary leak. There are two common types of urinary incontinence:

  • Stress Incontinence: When a sudden stress on your bladder causes momentary loss of control, that’s usually referred to as stress incontinence. This can occur with a laugh, a cough, during exercise, or during any number of other sudden body functions. Stress incontinence may become more pronounced with age or after having a baby.
  • Urge Incontinence: When you feel a surprising and overwhelming urge to urinate, that’s usually referred to as urge incontinence. You may also feel the need to urinate more frequently or more spontaneously. Urge incontinence can develop for a wide variety of reasons, from infection to nerve damage to diabetes. 

The two types of urinary incontinence are not mutually exclusive. It’s entirely possible for women to experience both urge and stress incontinence. As a result, you may find yourself locating the restrooms when you enter a new restaurant or planning your morning job to follow a route with available public lavatories. 

Often, symptoms can be relatively minor and easy to manage on your own. But it’s important to emphasize that there are treatments and therapies available that can provide significant relief should symptoms begin to impact your overall quality of life.

So if you’re experiencing symptoms of urinary incontinence–even minor ones–talk to your OBGYN today about your options.

 

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

There’s no single underlying cause for all types and forms of urinary incontinence. Temporary incontinence, for example, could be caused by something as simple as drinking a strong cup of coffee or having a few too many chili peppers in your stir fry. Persistent urinary incontinence, however, usually has a more significant cause. Some of those causes can include:

  • Aging: As you age, your bladder may change. And those changes could lead to either stress incontinence or urge incontinence. In addition to physical changes, Menopause can lead to a decrease in the production of estrogen, a hormone that helps keep the bladder and urethra healthy. This can also lead to urinary incontinence.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth: Both pregnancy and childbirth can have an exceptional impact on the bladder and urinary tract. Pregnancy can produce hormone changes that produce incontinence, while vaginal childbirth can weaken the muscles used for bladder control. 
  • Hysterectomy: Undergoing major surgery, such as a hysterectomy, can lead to an increase in urinary incontinence. That’s because the bladder is supported by muscles and ligaments of the uterus. In general, any surgery involving the reproductive system could create urinary incontinence. But those risks will change depending on the procedure in question.
  • Obstructions: A growth or obstruction in the urinary tract can alter the normal course of urine through your body. This can trick your system into thinking that it has to urinate more frequently or more urgently. Urinary stones may also sometimes cause urinary incontinence.
  • Tobacco use: While not necessarily a cause, per se, tobacco use can increase your risk of developing urinary incontinence. 
  • Diet: Your diet can also have an impact on your overall incontinence risk. Weight gain or being overweight have both been associated with an increased risk of developing urinary incontinence. 
  • Neurological issues: Urinary incontinence can be caused by neurological issues in a couple of different ways. Some diseases, such as diabetes, can directly damage nerve cells, which results in urinary incontinence. Other conditions, such as Parkinson’s, interfere with the signals transmitted between your brain and bladder, which results in the same general symptoms but from a completely different neurological process.

 

How is Urinary Incontinence Treated?

There are a wide variety of effective treatments, ranging from simple exercises to surgery. The best treatment option for you will depend on your symptoms, your medical history, and the root cause of your condition. If you just had a few too many cups of coffee, for example, your best treatment option will be to simply wait for the caffeine to run through your system!

However, for persistent urinary incontinence, you will have several options:

  • Behavioral techniques and muscle exercises: There are several “at home” treatment options that have been shown to help manage urinary incontinence symptoms. One of the easiest options is to try some behavioral therapy. For example, you can train yourself to urinate at specific times of day (rather than waiting for the urge). Or you can try to wait ten minutes after the urge has struck to urinate. In terms of physical therapies, you could perform pelvic floor muscle exercises, also called kegel exercises, in order to attempt strengthening of the muscles that help control urination. You should consult with your OBGYN before engaging in any of these treatment options.
  • Medications and intervention therapies: There are a wide variety of medications available to help treat urinary incontinence. Some of these medications are designed to calm an overactive bladder, while others are intended to keep your urinary tract health optimal by increasing your estrogen levels. Your OBGYN will be able to tell which medication is right for you. Likewise, other intervention therapies, such as botulinum toxin A injections or nerve stimulators can work for some women.
  • Surgery and devices: In some cases, surgery may be required to correct certain types of urinary incontinence. The exact procedure used will depend on the root cause of your urinary incontinence. In lieu of surgery, some women may instead opt for the use of a medical device, such as a urethral insert–a tampon-like device that can be used to absorb stress-related incontinence.

For some women, a combination of therapies and treatments will provide the best results. For others, it may never completely dissipate. In those cases, devices such as catheters or absorbent pads can help you maintain your activity level and quality of life, even if your symptoms remain.

There are some ways you can attempt to prevent urinary incontinence from occurring in the first place:

  • Eat a fiber rich diet
  • Avoid the use of tobacco
  • Regularly practice kegel or pelvic floor exercises
  • Avoid food and beverage that can irritate the bladder (common examples include coffee or alcohol)
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight

 

The Ability to Live Normally

No matter the cause of the urinary incontinence, most women who experience this condition have one simple goal: living their lives as normally as possible. Urinary incontinence can sometimes get in the way of that. 

The good news is that the wide variety of effective treatment options means that you can usually find a successful way to keep your urinary incontinence symptoms in check. Most women, then, are able to quickly get back to their normal lives and routines. Urinary incontinence can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to stay that way and it’s not inevitable.


With the right approach, you can reassert control over your bladder and your life! If you have questions about urinary incontinence, contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule an appointment today.

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