It’s a phenomenon familiar to many mothers to be. As your bouncing bundle of joy grows in utero, pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles increases. Laugh, sneeze, cough or experience a little strain, and you’re likely to lose a little pee. During a first pregnancy, one in three women can expect to experience this temporary stress incontinence. Additional pregnancies increase the odds—stress incontinence affects nearly 75% of women who give birth two or more times.
The good news is pelvic muscles can bounce back after childbirth, and almost all women can expect to regain full bladder control. Only 5% continue to experience stress incontinence a year after they deliver.
That said, after enduring the stress of labor and delivery, some mothers never completely recover full bladder control. Others don’t experience leaks until later in life, when expected changes in their bodies as they age can compound the issue.
If you’re expecting, you already have plenty to think about. Bladder leakage may seem like a distant concern, but a little understanding about the impact pregnancy and childbirth have on incontinence could make a difference to your bladder health and quality of life down the road.
Saying you can expect your body (and bladder!) to go through changes during pregnancy and after giving birth might be the understatement of the century. Still, many of us can be hesitant to acknowledge some of the uncomfortable postpartum possibilities. The pressure of pregnancy and childbirth can definitely stretch and weaken pelvic muscles—a sure cause of stress incontinence.
In more serious postpartum circumstances, pelvic organs may protrude or sag into the vaginal canal. Known as pelvic prolapse, some studies suggest it affects about a third of new mothers and puts a lot of stress on the bladder. Often, it is treatable with physical therapy and specialized exercises. In some cases, however, use of silicone inserts—to provide extra pelvic floor support—or even surgery may be necessary.
As mentioned, postpartum incontinence is a type of stress incontinence. It’s bladder leakage brought on because your body went through the most serious physical demands possible. Remember, most women recover within six months to a year, and there are steps you can take to help get that unwelcome leakage under control, or at least livable. Expect friends who have given birth to tell you to Kegel like crazy! That’s good advice, and here’s more:
Find pads that are easy and inconspicuous to wear and designed to absorb those leaks as you move through your busy day as a new mom. You’ll already be toting a diaper bag packed with baby necessities. Finding space inside for your own protection—plus some refreshing wipes and perhaps a change of underwear—is probably not a problem.
Little adjustments can add up to big relief when it comes to minimizing unwanted bladder stress. Try to maintain a healthy routine.
As a new mom, you already have plenty on your plate. Having to deal with stress incontinence is probably the last thing anyone wants to worry about. But with some realistic acceptance, an extra dose of patience and straightforward strategies, most women can expect to get back to good bladder health by their baby’s first birthday.
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