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    Oops, I Leaked: Tales of Incontinence

    Gotta go all the time? Worried you'll wet your pants if you laugh too hard? You may be suffering from mild incontinence, and you're not alone.

    The Power of Kegels for Urine Control

    The pelvic floor is a combination of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that support the pelvic organs, including the bladder, vagina, uterus, prostate, and rectum. Muscles in the pelvic floor help support the bladder and hold urine in check. Weak muscles -- from pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, heavy lifting, aging, obesity, or chronic medical conditions -- are more likely to contribute to leaks.

    While conducting interviews for a book he is writing about prostate cancer, Gallagher found out that just six men out of 132 had been told by their doctors to do Kegel exercises. Yet both men and women with stress incontinence can greatly benefit from Kegels. And the exercises are noninvasive, totally free, and without side effects.

    "A specially trained physical therapist who teaches you how to do the proper Kegel exercises has been the biggest help with [incontinence]," says Susan Mead. The 50-year-old first experienced mild incontinence nine years ago after delivering a 9 1/2 baby. She first tried herbal remedies, but when those failed, she turned to physical therapy. "I always know my routine is slipping if I have that bit of leakage when I sneeze, cough, or laugh," she says.

    Treatment Options for Mild to Moderate Incontinence

    Rabin encourages those who suffer from incontinence to seek help from a qualified health care practitioner.

    "[This condition] fundamentally affects how we see ourselves. Untreated, it can affect our ability to be intimate [and] contribute to isolation, depression, and obesity. But your life doesn't have to be ruled by your bladder."

    Depending on the severity of incontinence, doctors may prescribe a variety of treatments to patients.

    Treatment options for urinary incontinence include medications, nerve stimulation, biofeedback, and insertion devices.

    And though it is the most invasive and expensive treatment method, some doctors may recommend surgery for some patients.

    After having three large babies -- all weighing more than 9 pounds -- in less than four years, 37-year-old Laura Jackson of Stevensville, Mich., experienced stress incontinence.

    "I struggled with the condition until I spoke to my doctor, who recommended a surgical procedure called the Monarc Subfascial Hammock by AMS. I've had great success with it. I am an amateur triathlete and was really bothered by my incontinence prior to surgery. Since the surgery, I have competed in seven triathlons. The [surgery] restored my self-confidence and commitment to exercise. It was truly life-altering."

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