Double Undies

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by Grace Lin

DISCLAIMER: This post will mainly apply to the female audience.

Ladies, do you often struggle to with unwanted urine flow during exercise? Perhaps, it happens to you only sometimes but you can’t quite pinpoint when and why, which makes it difficult to plan for this unpleasant surprise.  As many know, the main cause of this accidental urination is a weak pelvic floor.  However, there could be another culprit that is often neglected.  This could all be speculation, but bear with me here… There has been talk about the timing of your menstrual cycle being connected with symptoms of a weak pelvic floor.

First off, what is the pelvic floor?  It is comprised of muscles that are located between the tailbone and the pubic bone.  The muscles support the bowel, bladder, uterus, and vagina.  Sphincters encircle these organs as they pass through the pelvic floor.  When the pelvic floor muscles contract, the organs are lifted and the sphincters tighten.  The opposite happens when the pelvic floor is relaxed, allowing passage of bodily fluids like urine.

So, if these muscles are weakened, then the internal organs may not be fully supported.  And thus, you might not be able to control your bladder.  Some common causes of a weakened pelvic floor are pregnancy, giving birth, obesity, chronic constipation, chronic coughing, surgeries that require cutting pelvic floor muscles, and lower levels of estrogen (e.g., after menopause).

Now what does this have to do with the timing of your menstrual cycle?  Well, as we move through our cycles, our hormone levels change.  These changes in hormone levels can result in a weaker pelvic floor at certain times during the cycle.  

One of the key hormonal players is estrogen.  This hormone is like the female version of testosterone.  It is responsible for growing and maturing the uterine lining to create a proper environment for implantation.  If you recall, lower levels of estrogen is a common cause of a weakened pelvic floor.  And guess what?  There are some periods during your menstrual cycle where estrogen is low.

 

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As you can see from the chart above, estrogen is at its lowest on days 1-8, 16-18, and 26-30.  So, if estrogen is lowest during these days, then your pelvic floor may also be weaker during these days.  Again, this may be just speculation, but it may be worth taking note of these days the next time you come to the gym to help prepare for unwanted pee, especially for those double unders.