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The Women's Health Issue No One Is Talking About

According to NIH, 24% of women are affected by incontinence or other pelvic floor issues.

It happens when we jump rope, and when we laugh, cough, run or sneeze. It might even happen when we are having sex. Sometimes it’s just a dribble—other times, an unstoppable gush.

Ladies, it’s time to start leaking the truth.

RELATED: Accidentally Weeing While Working Out

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 24 percent of us are peeing or pooping ourselves.

It’s time to start talking about it.

But first, let’s have a brief anatomy discussion. Having a baby changes everything, including your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor consists of the sling of muscles, tissue and nerves that supports our pelvic organs. The hormonal shifts of pregnancy, combined with the weight of a fetus crouching and kicking at our lady parts, can stretch and weaken these muscles. Even women who’ve delivered via C-section can be affected. Vaginal birth increases the risk of pelvic floor damage—particularly with a large baby or a prolonged pushing stage.

A bad head cold with a cough can set me back five to six pairs of underwear per day.

The effects of a weakened pelvic floor can range from the annoying—like the frequent need to pee—to the embarrassing and smelly, like urinary and fecal leakage, also called incontinence. (Fun fact: Even a few drops of pee or poo leakage are considered incontinence.) Extreme cases can show up as prolapse, which as far as I can tell means body parts are falling out of your vagina and/or anus.

After birthing two kids, one of whom took FOUR HOURS of pushing to eject, my pelvic floor went from being a taut little Kegel hammock to a slack mess. I became afraid to go to playgrounds without bathrooms. Once when I was visiting my parents with my kids, my preschooler announced, “I’m going to poop all over Papa.” This made me laugh so hard that I peed myself and had to go home wearing my mom’s panties.

Walk of shame, indeed.

At first I thought I was unique, with my poor broken vagina. But after talking with some friends, it became clear that many of us are suffering. Here are what some of my friends had to say about their postpartum lady parts:

“I keep an extra pair of panties in my glove box, just in case.”

“A bad head cold with a cough can set me back five to six pairs of underwear per day.”

“I used to sit on my heel for a cheap thrill. Now I do it to hold the pee in when I sneeze in my office.”

“I had zero issues after my first vaginal birth. Fast-forward three years to my 9-pound, med-free vaginal birth and my woo muscles are shot.”

“I had two C-sections and still have leakage. I dread allergy season. I had no idea. I wish the doctors and nurses would have been more adamant about doing the (Kegel) exercises.”

“A friend and I were recently talking about how we position our bodies when laughing or coughing. We take a similar approach; if standing, we try to discreetly press our knees together and bend at the waist.”

RELATED: What Your OB Wants You to Know Before Your C-Section

If your woo muscles are shot, please know that you’re not alone. Almost 25 percent of us are contorting our bodies into strange shapes when we laugh, cough or sneeze.

Stay tuned for my next post on ways to improve pelvic floor issues.

Image via MorgueFile/Melodi2

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