A Guide to Postpartum Urinary Incontinence
A woman’s body goes through incredible changes as it delivers another human life. It’s an experience to be proud of!
But once a woman’s body is her own again (for the most part), she might experience new changes she didn’t expect.
One major side effect of pregnancy and delivery? Make any sort of sudden movement, and you pee a little. This is referred to as postpartum urinary incontinence, and it’s not fun or convenient. For affected women, a sneeze, cough, laugh, jump or quick turn can send them running for a change of clothes.
Postpartum urinary incontinence is common. It affects about seven million new moms in the United States. Even low-stress deliveries can lead to incontinence in up to 50 percent of women. But why does it happen?
What Causes Postpartum Urinary Incontinence?
Again, postpartum urinary incontinence is very common in pregnant women and women who have had children. According to Aeroflow Urology, childbirth can do some strange things to a woman’s body to make room for and support the growing baby. A pregnant woman’s organs adjust, and more pressure is placed on her bladder and pelvic floor muscles, which can cause them to weaken.
As her body prepares for birth, her hip joints loosen, her cervix stretches, and as the baby passes through the vaginal canal, her pelvic muscles, bones and ligaments also stretch. After giving birth, her body continues to experience hormonal changes that affect her bladder. And as her uterus contracts, it places extra pressure on her bladder. All of this pressure and stretching means her weakened pelvic muscles might be unable to contract in order to hold or stop urine leaking, which is why women can experience leaks while lifting something heavy, sneezing, laughing or exercising.
Urinary incontinence during pregnancy can also be the result of an overactive bladder, according to WebMD. Women who have an overactive bladder (OAB) need to urinate more than usual because their bladders have uncontrollable spasms. In addition, the muscles surrounding the urethra — the tube through which urine passes from the bladder — can be affected. These muscles are meant to prevent urine from leaving the body, but they can be “overridden” if the bladder has a strong contraction.
How to Prevent Postpartum Urinary Incontinence
Now that you know what postpartum urinary incontinence is, how can you prevent it? Although there isn’t a sure way to prevent this from happening, there are things women can do before they deliver that can reduce the chances. According to a blog on VeryWell Family, the best thing women can do to prevent postpartum incontinence is to protect their pelvic floor before any injury occurs. Women can protect your pelvic floor during pregnancy by:
- Visiting a physical therapist during pregnancy to get specific, targeted exercise for the pelvic floor.
- Talking to a doctor about ways to protect the pelvic floor based on how the pregnancy is progressing and any special considerations with the pregnancy that might need to be worked with.
- Avoiding high-impact exercises, such as jumping jacks or jump-roping, that may place extra pressure on the pelvic floor.
- Maintaining a core-strengthening program throughout the pregnancy, such as prenatal yoga.
Treatment for Postpartum Incontinence
It’s important to point out that, even though it is common for many women to deal with postpartum incontinence, that doesn’t necessarily make it normal. Women experiencing postpartum incontinence can discuss several treatment options with their providers. These treatment options include working with a physical therapist or a pelvic floor therapist to help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. AWHDallas offers pelvic floor rehabilitation, a noninvasive and painless program with very high success rates.
Ask your doctor for recommendations of where to start finding help for pelvic floor exercises. Many insurance companies cover pelvic floor therapy, so check with your insurance provider. Pelvic floor therapy can help most women relieve symptoms of postpartum incontinence, but treatment might not completely cure it. Depending on the extent of the incontinence, other options for treatment include:
- Medications to reduce urgency and frequency of urination.
- Surgery to support the urethra to reduce leakage.
- Nerve stimulation to help repair the nerves that connect to the bladder.
At the end of the day, if you have this condition – there are options to explore. Don’t just tell yourself that this is part of your postpartum journey, because it doesn’t have to be. Visit with your AWHDallas doctor today about your symptoms and experiences.