Exercises to prevent incontinence

Presenter: Katherine
Guest: Michelle Wright
Guest Bio: Mish Wright from Mishfit.

Segment Overview: Michelle Wright discusses pre and post natal care awareness. She shares her own experiences in getting in shape through proper exercising after giving birth as it is difficult for many mothers to get fit.


Health Professional Radio – incontinence prevention

Katherine: Hi, this is Katherine from Health Professional Radio. Today, we are joined by Mish Wright from Mishfit. Welcome.

Mish Wright: Hi, Katherine.  Nice to be here.

Katherine: Yeah, and great name for a business too.

Mish: Thank you.  It’s a bit of a play on words, because I was never a regular exerciser.   But now look at my profession.   

Katherine: [indecipherable 00:24]

Mish: Sorry, what was that?

Katherine: it’s always the way.

Mish: Yes.

Katherine: It’s always the way, isn’t it?  Yeah.  Mish, so you set up the business, and what it does is it provides safe exercise to pre and post natal woman.  The focus at Mishfit is education and exercising safely with pelvic floor awareness which has been an issue for people who want to strengthen their muscles and combat [inaudible 00:00:55] such as incontinence which we will be talking about today.  Before we start that though, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started your business?

Mish: Sure.  Well, my first profession was a teacher, and I worked in New Zealand and in England.  When I had moved to Australia and had my own children, I actually become divorced very quickly during that time, and to deal with everything that was going on, I got fit for the first time in my life.  I had two children and went to the gym as most mums do, and put the kids into crèche.

I found the exercise really, really great for postnatal depression, and that caused me to exercise more, and I just loved it.  But during this time, I was actually … I never incontinence during my pregnancies, or even post, after both of them, but through exercise, I exercised myself to incontinence.  At the same time, I keep it a very tight secret, because I was incredibly embarrassed about what was happening to my body.  At the same time, I decided I couldn’t go back teaching, so I became a personal trainer.  I kind of hoped that someone would give me some answers there, but it wasn’t even mentioned.

It wasn’t until I was actually a qualified personal trainer that I went off to see a women’s health physio, and she said to me that if I didn’t change my ways, I would be back and having prolapse surgery.  That was the first time I ever heard that word, prolapse.  Then I was mortified to find out the statistics around, that one in three postnatal woman will have a prolapse, according to the Continence Foundation of Australia.  So it‘s really a big issue and yet, it is not talked about a lot.

So I went on a journey to find out everything I could.  I was definitely not going to have surgery, so I learned everything I could.  I went and heard people speak.  I did courses, and then I practised on myself, healing my body through exercise and having a new understanding of my body.  Then I wanted to share that message with other women.

I formed – which is a very, very important and vital link in the business – I formed a relationship with a women’s health physio.  That is such an important strategy, so that women can, using real-time ultrasound, like when they’re pregnant, they can see their muscles contract correctly.

From that, I’ve devised a 10-week program called Mishfit Mothers, and with each day, each week having like an educational theme to teach the strategies of what we need to know to make sure that we are safe with exercise and care for our pelvic floor.  That’s how my business came about.

Katherine: Okay.  Thanks for sharing your personal story as well.  I’m so surprised by the statistic, how high it actually is.

Mish: It’s incredibly high.  Two out of five women suffer from incontinence issues, and it affects around 4.8 million people in Australia today.  It costs the government a huge amount of money, and unfortunately, because we don’t talk about it and it’s embarrassing, a lot of women suffer in silence and think it’s either not that bad or that it will just go away, and unfortunately …

Katherine: No.

Mish: It won’t just go away.  But also we need to remember that it is not for life.  You don’t have to remain incontinent.  There are certainly lots of services that you can do to fix it, and that are without surgery as well.

Katherine: Wow.  And I think, when you think about incontinence, they think it affects a more mature age group, but in actual fact, you’re saying that quite … women in their 20s and 30s are experiencing this post- pregnancy.

Mish: That’s right.  There’s a whole range of factors that can affect whether you’re incontinent or continent.  The amount of children that you’ve had, so that … if you had multiple births, it’s obviously a long-time pressure on your pelvic floor.  If you’re a heavy smoker, so you’re coughing a lot, if you’re doing heavy lifting, so that might be people in nursing, for example, who are lifting patients or whatever their profession is, if they’re overweight.  Then it’s genetics as well, so if your mother has suffered from incontinence.

It also has to do with structure of the muscle as well, how much collagen, the elasticity that you have in your muscles.  That’s why, it does tend to affect more women through menopause, because going through menopause, they have a loss of the hormones that make their muscles very elastic.  They might have coped okay up to then, but then start to have those issues.  Unfortunately, some women believe that it’s just a natural by-product of aging, but it isn’t, and it doesn’t have to be.

Katherine: Okay.  Great to hear that.  I might have to fast-track a little bit because I’m assuming that everyone knows what incontinence is, but just for the listeners who aren’t familiar with it, can you tell us a little bit about …?

Mish: Sure.  There is a whole range of incontinence.  Incontinence can be making a little bit of wee when we jump or sneeze or laugh.  That’s called stress incontinence.  There’s also urgency incontinence, and that’s when when when you have to go, you have to go.  Then there is a mixture of the both of those as well, and then they’re all on a spectrum.

I know that there are some women who find it really hard to leave their home unless they know where the toilets are, and it rules their lives.  Others who just put up with it by wearing an incontinence pad.  Over my time, over my ten years of working with this niche – well, it’s actually not a niche – working in this and being really passionate about women’s health and incontinence, I’ve even noticed that the products at the supermarkets where they just used to be, when I was buying them, a very few amounts, they are now equal to the amount of sanitary products, for example, that are on the market.

Now we’ve got the euphemism of ‘light bladder leakage,” which, the product makers themselves, are using to say, well, we’ve got a product for this issue.  Where a product is fantastic if it keeps you moving and active, it would be even better if you got to not buy those anymore.

Katherine: Right.  I know you specialize in pelvic floor exercising.  Is there any prevention or is it more cure?  When do we actually start pelvic floor exercising?

Mish: Well, the pelvic floor muscle is quite a big muscle.  It stretches, literally … if you think of your hips like a cup, it is the bottom of the cup, so it holds everything up where it needs to be.  Just like a bicep, it you don’t use it, it will get slack and loose.  But unfortunately, your bicep doesn’t hold up all your internal organs like your pelvic floor does.  Being aware of your pelvic floor is really, really important.

But incontinence can … exercise and stress-induced incontinence can actually happen, the same amount to elite athletes as it can to your everyday people.  It is really, really important that if you have got … when you want to exercise with using your pelvic floor, so bracing your pelvic floor before you sneeze, before you cough, or before you lift weights, before you lift the baby [indecipherable 09:26] or whatever, the heavy load of washing or whatever you’re doing – you need to brace your pelvic floor to protect it.

But also, you need to do that throughout your life to protect it, and also to know that if you do start to find that you have a little bit or a lot of stress incontinence or urgency incontinence, that it is often just one trip to the women’s health physio for them to ascertain really the specifics of what’s happening in your body and how to fix it.

Katherine: Oh, I see.  I notice that you have some products that actually help people, such as the compression clothing?

Mish: Yes.  We are ambassadors for SRC Recovery Wear, which is a fantastic use of compression technology, but the products themselves are designed specifically for pregnant, post-natal and for exercising women.  They have panels that are sewn in especially for lower back, for pelvic floor support and support across the midsection, so if there’s diastasis, for example, it helps [indecipherable 10:46] of abdominal muscles.

Then I’ve also created a CD to help clients who are unable to access our services.  There are two – there is one which is a meditation type, so you can relax and focus on your pelvic floor and follow the instructions to correctly contract your pelvic floor.  However, I know that it’s just as important to exercise your pelvic floor while you are moving and you are active, so the second CD, it’s a double CD, is I think the only one of its type on the market.  It encourages you to do it first of all sitting and then standing.

Then you can load it on your iPod, while you go for a walk or go to the gym, or drop off the kids at school.  The whole idea is that we should be aware of what our pelvic floor is doing while we’re active, not just when we are sitting at the traffic lights.  That’s a good start, but [laughs] not the whole story.

Katherine: Okay.  Well, you’ve given us so much information today.  Thank you so much for your time, Mish.

Mish: You’re welcome.  Thank you for having me.

Katherine: No problem.  For those of you that are interested in what Mish has talked about, you can go to her website, it’s mishfit, that’s spelled M-I-S-H-F-I-T.com.au.  Thank you.

Mish: Thank you.

Katherine: Well, I [indecipherable 12:18].

Mish: [indecipherable 12:18]

Katherine: Did you feel okay doing that in the show?

Mish: Oh yes, I’ve actually … I’ve been on Hillary Harper’s show and another’s doctor’s show, and on TV.

Katherine: Yeah, yeah, you’re very seasoned, media-savvy now. [laughs]

Mish: [laughs] I should have told you about my … I often share my personal story, because I think it’s a nice lead-in for people, because there are a lot of people who live in denial about what’s actually happening with them.  They think it’s not that bad.

Katherine: Yeah.

Mish: I often find that sharing my personal story allows them to actually say, “Do you know what?  I don’t have to put up with this.”  That’s my main goal.

Katherine: Yeah.

Mish: Saving the world one pelvic floor at a time. [laughs]

Katherine: Yeah, and I think it’s great that it’s online, because people can … they are embarrassed and they don’t want to talk to anyone about it.  It’s not something that they bring up during dinner conversation.  The fact that it’s online, they can do a bit of research, go into your site, learn more about you,  order the CD, things like that.  That’s great.

Mish: Yeah, it’s excellent.  Thank you so much.

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