A woman’s body goes through many changes in her lifetime, particularly in the vaginal and pelvic region. Some are exciting, others are downright baffling, but how our bodies work and what they can do is truly amazing.
Regardless of your age or stage, it’s essential to understand your body’s functions; what’s working well and what’s not. It also means you can share helpful and accurate information if you have teenagers, a loved one approaching their childbearing years or perimenopause. Here’s a rundown on the three Ps: puberty, pregnancy and perimenopause, how our bodies change and adapt for each stage and how to manage some of the tricky bits you might encounter along the way.
Puberty and periods
When hormonal changes trigger the onset of puberty, it may not be noticeable at first but there’s a lot going on. The early signs are usually skin changes and breast growth, while internally, the vaginal canal elongates, and menstruation begins. These hormonal changes and the growth of pelvic floor muscles can cause occasional bladder leaks in teens. While they’re not uncommon and usually resolve on their own, it’s a good idea to see a GP to rule out any medical issues.
Pregnancy and postpartum
During a woman’s childbearing years, the vagina and pelvic floor get a workout if babies are on the agenda. The vaginal canal is amazing in its ability to stretch to accommodate a baby’s head and can shrink back to almost its original size. The same applies to the pelvic floor muscles, but they can weaken during pregnancy and surprise you with the occasional bladder leak when you sneeze or laugh.
Over 50 per cent of women experience light bladder leakage (LBL) as pressure on the bladder increases, and postpartum as the pelvic floor recovers. Women who have vaginal births are more likely to experience LBL, but it can happen after C-section deliveries, too. The good news is, it’s likely to be temporary and doing Kegel exercises (where you clench your pelvic floor muscles as if to stop the flow of urine) regularly can help. Day to day, Poise odour control liners with charcoal can help keep you comfortable and dry and help neutralise any odours.
Perimenopause and beyond
Around the 40s and 50s, perimenopause and menopause symptoms typically start. Hot flushes, mood swings, irregular periods and a drop in libido can signal the onset. While the immediate symptoms can be challenging and vary greatly from person to person, it can also be a relief for women after years of periods, cramps and contraception.
LBL becomes more common in women in this life stage. As estrogen levels drop, pelvic muscles weaken in a process known as ‘pelvic relaxation’. As a result, you may find leaks catch you by surprise, or the sound of running water sends you running to the loo.
If you are worried about LBL, speak to your GP. There are very effective treatments and strategies to help manage various types of bladder leaks. Treatment will depend on the type of leakage you have, but the first step is usually a few lifestyle tweaks.
A focus on a healthy diet can help, as can eating more fibre, drinking more water and doing Pilates or physiotherapy to strengthen the pelvic floor, which supports your bladder, and some medications.
It’s important to remember that LBL is very common and completely normal. But wetness from leaks can feel unpleasant and urine can have an odour at times. If LBL is making you self-conscious, Poise Charcoal Odour Protection Liners can keep you dry, and the additional charcoal layer removes up to 95 per cent of odours, compared to having no pad. Available in extra-long and light liners, they give discreet, comfortable protection so you can get on with life.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice from a qualified health care professional with any questions regarding your concerns.