Are you pregnant and experience urine leaks once in a while? Or you have just given birth and still experience little leaks? Then you are probably experiencing stress incontinence, this is very common for pregnant women.
Stress incontinence is a type of Urinary Incontinence (UI) that affects 300 in 750 pregnant women.i Women who have had a vaginal delivery are more likely to develop this condition than those who had a Caesarean section.ii The age at onset may vary but some patients have shown symptoms as early as the first trimester while some have it six months postnatal.iii
Why Does Bladder Weakness in Pregnancy Happen?
Hormone changes and pressure on the pelvic floor during pregnancy can disrupt your normal urination process. Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles in your pelvis and bladder become weak, losing control of the urine flow. So, any additional pressure on the bladder may cause moderate leakage.
Ever felt a gush of pee while laughing hard with your friends? Or even while coughing? Such distress is true for many expecting mums, even months after giving birth.
Leaking urine can be a serious problem if left untreated. Worse still, it can have damaging effects on one’s mental health in the long run.iv But don’t let it take away the joys of motherhood from you!
There are options available to fight stress incontinence. Below are some tips that can help improve your quality of life.
1. Practice Behavioural Methods
Retraining yourself to urinate at convenient times is an effective way of treating stress incontinence at home. Research shows that this method can reduce the frequency of urine loss from 57% to 86%v.
One commonly practised behavioural method is bladder control. Here are the steps:
- Schedule a time in a day when you should go to the bathroom to urinate.
- When it’s time, try to wait a little longer before you do so.
- Maintain these intervals for a period of time (e.g. 1-2 days).
- Stretch your scheduled bathroom visit(s). For example, once in every 120 minutes and so on.
Other options include fluid and dietary management, patient education, and timed voiding.vi
2. Restore Pelvic Floor Strength
Muscles in the pelvic floor provide stability and support to the bladder and urethral systems. Any impairment to these muscles such as sustained pressure on the bladder during pregnancy can cause UI.
Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT) is an effective treatment for women with mixed and stress urinary incontinence.vii A clinical trial has concluded that 56% of SUI patients who sought PFMT treatment were likely to report cure compared with 6% who’ve not received treatments. It’s also been proven to reduce urine leak episodes in one day as well as the amount you lose on a one-hour interval.
A complete PFMT treatment plan involves multiple sessions over a period of time. If you are heavily pregnant, talk to your doctor first so that you can avoid doing exercises that may otherwise harm you.
Alternatively, if you think you’re in good condition to do simple pelvic floor exercises, you can get started with any of these:
- Kegels – 30 times a day for up to 6 months
- Squats – 10 repetitions
- Bridges – 2 sets, 10 repetitions
Yoga is a good alternative as well. Read here for basic Yoga poses to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
3. Use Incontinence Products
To aid you with stress incontinence, use specialised pads and other medical devices.
These products are designed to help you gain control over your life because you are prepared for any leak. You can go about your day like normal instead of bounding yourself to the corners of your home.
Be sure to seek medical advice for more information, though. It is important to use the appropriate products for your condition in order to achieve maximum results.
How to deal with stress incontinence during pregnancy
Overall, stress incontinence does happen to a lot of pregnant women. It is a common experience that should be talked about instead of treating it as a taboo. Enhance your quality of life by seeking any available treatments and incontinence products.
Behavioural methods and pelvic floor exercises can significantly reduce leakage episodes. Meanwhile, incontinence products are important in preparing yourself for what’s inevitable whenever you’re outside doing things that you love.
Care to share other tips that you may have in mind? Comment below.
[i] Prevalance of Urinary Incontinence During Pregnancy and Associated Risk Factors: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28675636
[ii] Long-term Impact of Mode of Delivery on Stress Urinary Incontinence and Urgency Urinary Incontinence: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5009182/
[iii] How to Manage Pregnancy Incontinence: https://www.everydayhealth.com/incontinence/managing-incontinence-during-pregnancy.aspx
[iv] Review: The Psychosocial Impact of Urinary Incontinence in Women: https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1576/toag.18.104.22.168665
[v] Behavioral Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14978643
[vi] Treatment Options for Stress Urinary Incontinence: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472859/
[vii] Pelvic Floor Muscle Training versus no Treatment, no Inactive Control Treatments, for Urinary Incontinence in Women: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005654.pub4/full
[viii] Urinary Incontinence in Women: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5878864/