As a new mom, you have plenty going on. The inconvenience of postpartum urinary incontinence may be something unexpected. This involuntary bladder leakage hits when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or do something strenuous. Fully one-third of new moms experience urinary incontinence, so you’re not alone.
The good news is that for most women the condition is temporary. That doesn’t, however, help you cope when it’s an active issue. Here’s a guide to understanding why postpartum incontinence occurs as well as some ways to cope with the problem.
The effects of pregnancy
The changes to your body during pregnancy are obviously major. You’re going through the process that creates new life, after all. The growth of your baby inside you takes an enormous toll. Stretched muscles in your pelvis become weaker and need time to recover.
Your bladder requires close coordination between muscles and nerves to control and hold back the stream of urine. When muscles surrounding your bladder recover from pregnancy, they may not be sufficiently strong to seal off the bladder. Sudden spasm-type movements — laughing, coughing and others — can release the tight seal these muscles usually have.
Postpartum incontinence may not be exclusively a muscular problem. It also takes time for your uterus to reduce back to normal size, and while you’re waiting for this, the uterus presses down on the bladder. This compression can deform the bladder shape, decreasing capacity and making it harder for the already-compromised muscles to seal off your bladder.
Coping with postpartum urinary incontinence
Like many new mothers, you’ve likely been drilled on Kegel exercises since the earliest days of your pregnancy. It’s never too soon to start strengthening the muscles of your pelvic floor to aid their ability to cope through your pregnancy and after delivery.
The importance of Kegels doesn’t end with the birth of your baby. Repeating sets of 30 Kegel contractions, three times a day, can help you boost your ability to control minor urinary incontinence. Performing a Kegel when you feel the urge to sneeze or cough may assist you in holding back a leak.
The weight you’ve gained during pregnancy may also press on your bladder, adding to the burden. Sensible weight loss after giving birth helps relieve excess pressure that may aggravate postpartum incontinence.
Keep up your fluid intake. This might seem counterintuitive, but you risk dehydration if you reduce water intake to combat incontinence. Postpartum incontinence isn’t related to the amount of urine. It’s about muscle strength. When you can’t hold it in, it doesn’t really matter if your bladder is nearly empty or full.
Avoid food and drink that may irritate your bladder, things such as citrus fruits and juices, coffee and caffeinated beverages, sodas, alcohol, and tomatoes. An irritated bladder is harder to control.
In some cases, self-care may not be enough to stop all instances of postpartum urinary incontinence. Then it’s time to contact Dr. Lingenfelter to investigate other options. Call the office today or use the appointment request tool on the website.