Chronic Incontinence after Pregnancy: It’s Not “Natural”

Your body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy, and getting back to your pre-pregnancy self can take some time. One of the changes many women experience both during and immediately after pregnancy is incontinence. But while most pregnancy-related incontinence resolves itself, some women may need a little help to see their symptoms eliminated.

If you’re experiencing bladder incontinence as a result of your pregnancy, here is what you need to know:

Pregnant women tend to experience one of two types of incontinence: stress incontinence, which occurs as a result of increased pressure on the bladder, and overactive bladder, an uncontrollable need to urinate that results from bladder spasms. Both of these conditions often clear up on their own in the days and weeks following delivery as the body returns to its pre-pregnancy state. However, in some women, pregnancy can cause pelvic floor muscles to become stretched or weakened, resulting in prolonged symptoms that can take a little effort to overcome. An episiotomy can also injure pelvic floor muscles, causing incontinence to persist.

Many women find performing Kegel exercises to be especially helpful in restoring or maintaining bladder control. Here is how to perform them correctly:

  • Relax your buttocks and thigh muscles.
  • Now clench your pelvic floor muscles. (Not sure which ones they are? The next time you urinate, squeeze your muscles to stop the flow of urine. Those are your pelvic floor muscles.)
  • Keep these muscles clenched for a count of 10 and release while you count to 10.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Perform a series of 10 in the morning, in the afternoon and again before bed.
  • It takes about four to six weeks of regular exercises to see results.

Other tips: Avoid caffeinated beverages as they can irritate your bladder. Don’t delay urination when your bladder feels full; this can also cause unnecessary bladder irritation. Until your incontinence is under control, wearing protective undergarments or pads can help you stay comfortable and avoid embarrassment.

Most importantly, if your incontinence persists beyond six weeks following delivery, see your doctor for an evaluation. Contrary to what some people may believe, chronic urinary incontinence is not a natural after effect of pregnancy. There are plenty of options available today to help you get your incontinence under control so you can lead a more comfortable, more confident life.