Updated: Nov 18
Perineal pain and constipation are common during a woman's postpartum period. However, you might also find a sudden inability to control your bladder. Understand you are not alone.
Postpartum urinary incontinence is a common occurrence in new mothers. Thankfully, you can take steps to help manage and reduce urine leakage. The first step is understanding the different types of urinary incontinence.
Types of Urinary Incontinence During Postpartum Period
There are multiple types of urinary incontinence. The three main types that rear their ugly head during the postpartum period are:
The stress type occurs by placing pressure on the bladder. This type of incontinence can also transpire during pregnancy. Laughter, exercise, coughing, standing up, lifting, bending over, and jumping can trigger episodes.
Urge incontinence is the result of an overactive bladder. When you feel the sudden intense urge to urinate, it could be urge incontinence. The intensity will be so severe that you may not make it to a bathroom in time.
Mixed incontinence is when stress and urge collide. This type can happen postpartum but is more common in menopausal women.
Postpartum urinary incontinence is the involuntary leaking of urine after pregnancy and childbirth. Incontinence is a common result of giving birth vaginally.
The pelvic floor muscles are usually weakened during and after pregnancy making it challenging to control urine flow. When these muscles are weak and pressure is placed on the bladder, leakage can occur.
You may experience a loss of bladder control while laughing, sneezing, coughing, or performing strenuous activity. Some women will experience an urgent need to relieve themselves, while others may experience both.
Postpartum urinary incontinence affects about 50% of all women following vaginal birth.
Causes of Postpartum Urinary Incontinence
In short, you can blame it on the pregnancy. Muscles around the bladder and pelvis, weakened by pregnancy, can cause incontinence after childbirth. The uterus shrinks in the weeks following delivery, sitting directly on the bladder, compressing it, and making it more difficult for urine retention.
Postpartum urinary incontinence can last a few weeks or even months after pregnancy. However, there are steps that you can take to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles faster and regain complete bladder control.
Improving Postpartum Urinary Incontinence
New moms can take proactive steps to correct incontinence after childbirth. Check out these tips and techniques to help relieve postpartum urinary incontinence:
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises (Kegels)
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles both during and after pregnancy can be achieved through Kegel exercises. Doing them can also help prevent the risk of an injury during childbirth. You'll want to practice two to three sets of 15 daily, holding each squeeze for about five to 10 seconds each.
For more advanced toning, pelvic floor muscle trainers or Kegel machines are available. These devices can also help you with perfect form, ensuring you do the exercises correctly and effectively.
Increase Your Fiber
Constipation is a common issue for moms following childbirth. Unfortunately, this can also add unwanted stress and pressure to your bladder resulting in leakage. To avoid this situation, consume a diet rich in fiber, such as beetroots, avocados, berries, and apples.
Avoid Certain Foods
You should avoid foods containing citrus, caffeine, and alcohol. These foods and beverages can irritate the bladder, making retaining urine more challenging. Consult your doctor before including any of these foods in your diet.
Use Absorbency Pads
Absorbency pads are a great way to avoid embarrassing moments with postpartum urinary incontinence. Like menstrual pads, they are small, easy to change on the fly, and can fit in a handbag.
Drink More Water
Drinking water is a way to stay healthy no matter the complications you might face. You may feel drinking more water is counterintuitive if you are trying not to urinate, but it’s actually the opposite. Reducing water intake while experiencing postpartum urinary incontinence is a major no-no. Inadequate hydration can lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI), not to mention dehydration. Ensure you continue to drink the recommended eight glasses of water daily.
You don't necessarily need to begin a rigorous workout routine immediately after giving birth. That would likely irritate an incontinence problem even further. Instead, maintain a healthy weight with some diet and lifestyle changes. Light exercise, healthy eating, and a stress-free environment contribute to weight control.
Avoid Abdominal Pressure
Refrain from heavy lifting, abdominal exercises, running, and jumping to reduce unnecessary abdominal stress. Any pressure on the abdomen only increases the risk of urine leakage.
Training your bladder takes patience. You can begin urinating every 30 minutes (even before you have the urge) and then gradually extend the duration between your bathroom visits. Doing so will help train your bladder to start urinating regularly day and night.
When to See a Doctor
The above suggestions should help give you some relief during the postpartum period. If your symptoms don't improve after a few weeks, speak with your medical practitioner. There may be other options available to you to address your issues.
The use of electrical stimulation devices can help in the reduction and prevention of leakage. Using a pelvic floor muscle stimulator for urinary incontinence does not require a recommendation from a medicaldoctor. You can however get advice and treatment from a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
Pelvic floor stimultors are usually the first choice of treatment during the postpartum period.
There are a variety of medications that can help reduce postpartum urinary incontinence. Your doctor will explain how they work, the risks, and what you can expect from taking them. A low dose is likely the course of action, which may be increased if warranted. This will be entirely dependent on how your bladder responds to the medication.
If nothing else works to your satisfaction, surgery is one more option. There are procedures to insert a sling, advanced bladder stimulation, and even Botox injections. (These methods are not recommended until at least six months postpartum.) Discuss your options with your medical provider to determine the best course of action for you.