Mustering up the motivation to exercise is tough enough on its own. If you have stress incontinence, there’s a whole ‘nother hurdle to overcome: The fear of leaking urine during your workout.
Stress incontinence is when your bladder leaks urine under increased pressure, such as when you work out, lift something heavy, sneeze, or when you’re having sex. Stress incontinence “occurs when the urethra, the tube that allows the bladder to drain, moves too much or is weak,” says Maria Canter, MD, director of the Urogynecology Center of Northern Virginia. Learn more about stress incontinence here.
Even though the fear of urine leakage is real, you know that exercise is important. So how can you prevent leakage and still get a great workout in? Enter: The tampon trick.
Next time you’re about to hit the gym, stick a tampon in your vagina.
“When the urethra moves too much, it is called hypermobile. You can think of a hypermobile urethra as moving like a swing. This movement allows urine to slip out,” says Dr. Canter. Placing a tampon minimizes how much the urethra can move around while you exercise, potentially minimizing urine leakage.
Important: Don’t forget to remove the tampon afterward. Leaving a tampon in for too long—whether you’re on your period or not—can cause unsafe side effects. Learn more about common tampon mistakes to avoid.
Another option is a pessary, which is a plastic or silicone ring that is placed in the vagina (similar to a tampon) to support the pelvic organs. “The pessary is used to treat dropping organs, also known as pelvic prolapse, as well as urinary incontinence. The nice thing about the pessary is it can be cleaned and reinserted,” adds Dr. Canter.
If stress incontinence is hindering your life (or workouts), talk to a doctor. There are other lifestyle and behavior changes that may help take the stress out of stress incontinence.