Sneeze pee: 3 reasons you need to pay attention

“But come on, isn’t it pretty normal to have some sneeze pee? After all, you pushed a baby through your vagina, something has to change because of that. Isn’t sneeze pee just to be expected?”

This was part of a conversation over wine with friends recently and I realized that if some of my friends, totally understandably, still wonder about this, then some of you might be wondering about this, too.

woman crossing legs to avoid peeing

First things first, sneeze pee is a type of stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is one type of incontinence and is defined as the involuntary loss of urine in response to physical movement or activity like coughing, sneezing, running, jumping or lifting. Note the word involuntary, as in you can’t prevent it from happening.

And yes, sneeze pee can also be cough pee, laugh pee, fart pee, trampoline pee, or I’m going for a run and oh crap, that isn’t sweat running down my legs pee!

Whatever your particular version of stress urinary incontinence, we’re going to talk about why it’s important not to ignore it.

Common doesn't mean everything's fine

Yes, sneeze pee is super common, somewhere between 4%-35% of women have some form of stress incontinence.

No, it isn’t just part of what happens after you push a baby through your vagina. 

Sneeze pee also happens to women who've never birthed a baby as well as women who've had a c-section. 

What you need to know

Before you stick your next pantiliner onto your underwear and move on with your day, here’s 3 things you need to know about the all-too-common, more than a minor annoyance, sneeze pee:

1. Sneeze pee can be a sign of pelvic organ prolapse. One study showed that 63.3% of women with stress urinary incontinence also had pelvic organ prolapse. 

Prolapse is a term used to describe the downward descent of your pelvic organs – uterus, bladder, rectum, small intestine and vagina. Some women have only one type of prolapse and some have multiple. 

When your bladder prolapses, it pushes into the wall of your vagina. The official term is cystocele; this is the most common type of prolapse.

The descent of your pelvic organs to a more southern location can increase over time and it can come with other symptoms like pelvic floor pressure, constipation, pain with sex and more.

As with most things, it’s more effective to do something about it sooner than later.

2. It’s not just about the pee, it’s about your back and pelvis, too. Sneeze pee is a warning sign that there are strength and mobility gaps in the muscles that help stabilize your pelvis and back. Yes, it’s all connected.

This means you’re at greater risk for things like sacroiliac joint problems, pubic symphysis dysfunction, bulging discs, degenerative discs and other back issues. Obviously these are things you would prefer to avoid in your lifetime.

3. Surgery is often not the solution people hope it will be. You may be tempted to blow it off thinking that if it gets bad enough there’s always surgery. Unfortunately, surgery often fails.

One study showed that 83% of women who underwent surgery for stress urinary incontinence had stress urinary incontinence 2 years after their surgery, which means only 17% of those women were symptom free 2 years post-surgery. Yikes!

See what I mean? There’s way more to sneeze pee than just being an embarrassing inconvenience.

I'm guessing that now you’re going to be super, duper extra diligent about doing your Kegels. No more slacking off. You will do those damn Kegels!

But wait, there’s more.

The problem with Kegels

In spite of every woman’s magazine telling you that the key to ending sneeze pee is just do more Kegels, it’s not that simple.

If Kegels were the end all be all cure for sneeze pee, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

My beef with Kegels is that they don’t address any of the whole body issues that impact the function of your bladder and pelvic floor (for better or worse).

If we want to really address sneeze pee, we have to look at things like how you move throughout your day, your strength gaps or your mobility gaps.

"Just do more Kegels!" is like telling someone that the key to health is to just be sure to get your Vitamin C each day. Bodies are way more complex than that.

Where to from here

So if sneeze pee is a warning sign to heed and Kegels aren’t the end-all-be-all, now what?

Check out my free webinar: 3 Habits That Weaken Your Pelvic Floor and discover what you can start doing to help yourself. 

Let's put an end to sneeze pee!