Pregnancy should be an enjoyable time but it comes with challenges. Incontinence during pregnancy is common, with many women relying on incontinence pads to manage the problem.
But why is incontinence an issue? Is there anything that can be done to alleviate the symptoms? HARTMANN Direct give us the answers.
What types of incontinence are experienced during and after pregnancy?
Stress incontinence is one type of incontinence that pregnant women can experience. This means that accidental leaks of urine happen because of increased pressure on the bladder.
As the baby grows, more weight and pressure is placed on your bladder which can make controlling it more difficult. For example, coughing or sneezing places a quick and sudden pressure on the bladder, leading to a sudden and unexpected leak of urine.
Incontinence during pregnancy can also be a result of an overactive bladder. This means that you may feel the urge to urinate more often than usual. The bladder muscle may be in spasm and the muscles surrounding the urethra, the tube through which the urine passes, can also be affected.
In this case, the muscles prevent the urine leaving the bladder but are overridden by a strong bladder muscle contraction. Unfortunately, this happens at inopportune moments leading to leaks of urine.
Surging hormones in pregnancy, especially early and late pregnancy as your body prepares for the birth also have an effect on the pelvic floor muscles and the bladder.
Does incontinence go away after pregnancy?
Many women face no difficulties with incontinence after giving birth but for others, it can be a continuing issue.
The good news is that dealing successfully with incontinence is possible, through a combination of exercises and lifestyle changes. It is not a problem that you ‘have to live with’ and neither is it an inevitable part of motherhood.
Giving birth vaginally or by caesarean section can lead to problems with the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. It can damage the muscles, although there are other conditions that can result too, such as;
- Damage to the bladder nerves
- The bladder and urethra may have moved during pregnancy
- An episiotomy, a small cut to the pelvic floor muscle to allow the baby to pass through more easily may also lead to incontinence problems
How to manage pregnancy incontinence
Being incontinent when you are pregnant is not a welcome or comfortable thought. But there are some small changes you can make to help in managing it easier;
- Incontinence pads – most pregnant women experience a small leak of urine every now and then. No matter whether you are suffering from stress incontinence or have the urge to urinate come on quickly and urgently – or both – incontinence pads can help to prevent ‘embarrassing leaks and accidents’.
Incontinence pads are made with urine in mind and will absorb both the wetness and the smell too. Sanitary ware is not designed for urine, thus the wetness can remain on top of the pad and can contribute to soreness. Incontinence pads are affordable and discreet.
- Drink plenty but over longer – decreasing the amount you drink is not the answer as this leads to urine becoming more concentrated, leading to the bladder being even more irritated. Instead of drinking drinks ‘all at once’, spread out drinking water over the course of the day, tailoring off your consumption of drinks later in the day to make for a more comfortable night’s sleep.
- Decrease caffeine and fizzy drinks – there are some foods and drinks that can make incontinence worse and caffeine in tea, coffee, hot chocolate and some fizzy drinks is one of them. Cut down on these drinks or stop them all together.
- Watch what you eat – foods that are acidic, such as tomatoes, lemons, limes, vinegar based salad dressings and so on can also irritate the bladder. Spicy foods can also impact on the body, producing more urine leading to increase incidence of incontinence.
- Gentle exercise helps too – clearly, pregnancy is not the time to start a new, high-impact exercise regime but there is nothing stopping you from taking gentle exercise. Yoga and Pilates, along with swimming, allow you to exercise without placing stress on your joints.
- Pelvic floor exercises – these exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy and after the birth too. These clench and release exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and not only help to control your bladder but are useful during the birth. They are also great for helping you heal once you have had your baby.
Incontinence during pregnancy can be managed by using pads, as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle and exercise.
HARTMANN Direct have incontinence pads in a range of absorbencies ideal for use during pregnancy. Discreet and effective, they make managing pregnancy incontinence much easier.
*This post was written in collaboration with Hartmann Direct.