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Living with Incontinence

Postpartum Urinary Incontinence

You get a lot of advice and hear a lot of stories when you are expecting a child. But no one may have told you about the possibility of having postpartum urinary incontinence. So here’s everything you need to know about the condition and what you can do about it.
Published by Jane Granger
Postpartum Urinary Incontinence

What is Postpartum Urinary Incontinence?

After many women have their baby, they begin to realise that they sometimes leak urine or have a strong urgency to urinate even with an empty bladder. For many women this issue stops after about a year. For other women, however, it can be persistent even years after having a child. It is very common among mothers – about 33% of women have postpartum urinary incontinence.

 

Who Gets It?

Any woman that has given birth is likely to suffer from urinary incontinence because by the third trimester the baby puts a lot of pressure on the bladder. Giving birth vaginally, the use of forceps, prolonging pushing or having a bigger baby also increase the chances of having the condition. Women who are obese or smokers are also at a higher risk.

A vaginal birth can put immense strain on the pelvic floor muscle, often causing tissue and nerve damage. Much of this should improve naturally over a few months but pelvic floor muscle exercises are highly recommended to help strengthen the muscle and improve bladder control.

Even with a caesarean delivery, the muscle may already have endured stretching from the pressure during pregnancy which in turn can cause incontinence, and without exercise, it doesn’t always spring back.

Subsequent pregnancies and births can increase the likelihood of experiencing incontinence as it consolidates and exacerbates the issue further since the muscle has already been stretched and weakened. A regular regime of exercises between and after pregnancies can dramatically improve the strength of the pelvic floor and its ability to maintain continence.

 

What You Can Do

One of the best ways to stop leaking is through Kegel exercises. These help strengthen the muscles around the bladder, which are what allow you to start and stop urinating. Strengthening them can prevent leaks. Drinking less coffee has also been shown to help as this drink can irritate the bladder. It is important to stay hydrated and balance your fluid intake. For more tips you can look at our post on living well with urinary incontinence.

 

Did you know?

4.87 million Australians are affected by incontinence