Do you ever find yourself leaking urine involuntarily during pregnancy or after childbirth?
This is a condition which happens when there is a loss of bladder control.
Even though this can be embarrassing, it is common among pregnant women and can continue even after childbirth. It is mild and infrequent in some women and, for others, very severe.
Stress incontinence is the most common type associated with pregnancy. If you’re experiencing stress incontinence, you may leak urine when you cough, laugh or engage in physical activities.
Why does urinary incontinence occur in pregnancy?
Bladder control issues can result from weakened pelvic floor muscles, pelvic organ prolapse, and damaged pelvic nerves. Pregnancy and childbirth can contribute to this in several ways:
As the uterus (womb) expands gradually to accommodate the growing foetus, it puts increased pressure on the bladder. As the pressure increases, the amount of urine the bladder holds decreases, and this causes a frequent urge to urinate. The pelvic floor muscles gradually weaken due to this, making it difficult to control the bladder.
Hormonal changes such as the increase in progesterone levels weaken the ligaments in the pelvis that help you hold in urine, leading to incontinence.
During childbirth, particularly vaginal delivery, your pelvic muscles can stretch and become very weak. This can lead to pelvic organ prolapse (one or more of the organs in the pelvis slipping down from their normal position), which may eventually result in urinary incontinence.
A vaginal delivery also can result in pelvic muscle and nerve injury, which may cause bladder control problems.
Although common with pregnancy, you do not have to live with urinary incontinence during your pregnancy. It puts you at a higher risk of persistent problems after birth. Do the following to reduce your risk of having urinary incontinence during pregnancy or after childbirth.
Maintain a healthy weight as an increase in weight, especially around the abdomen, can increase the pressure on the bladder.
Perform pelvic floor exercises to tighten and strengthen the muscles to prevent and control the leakage.
Eat foods high in fibre to help prevent constipation as it puts stress on the pelvic floor.
Do not urinate right after you have an urge; hold it in a bit to gradually strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Try to increase the intervals between your urination by waiting for some time after the urge to urinate. This will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
How can physiotherapy help?
Pregnancy-related incontinence can be treated through Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy, which includes electrical stimulation and exercises to rehabilitate and strengthen the muscles that control the bladder. The correct muscles must be identified and exercised appropriately.
Your physiotherapist will teach you how to correctly exercise your pelvic floor muscles and monitor your progress to modify your exercises accordingly. You will obtain the best results if you perform your exercises regularly.
Talk to a physiotherapist today, if you are or know anyone dealing with urinary incontinence due to pregnancy.