Postpartum Urinary Incontinence: Why It Happens & How To Make It Stop

Giving birth can take a toll on your body, and it takes some time to recover physically. This is completely common – you created life, after all. It’s common for women to experience a variety of postpartum symptoms, from fatigue to depression. Postpartum urinary incontinence is one of those symptoms. 

If you’re suffering from extra bladder leakage while adjusting to being a new mom, don’t worry. There are many ways you can manage the symptoms of postpartum urinary incontinence at home and avoid the self-consciousness that comes with it.

What is Postpartum Urinary Incontinence?

This is an extremely common condition many new moms experience after giving birth. Generally, women who have postpartum urinary incontinence undergo involuntary bladder leaking, mostly when laughing or sneezing, and sometimes during exercise or physical activity. In some cases, you may even experience a frequent need to urinate or the feeling that you’re not completely empty after using the washroom. This is also known as an overactive bladder.

At least 33% of women who give birth experience some type of urinary incontinence within the first year post-pregnancy. Women who choose to have natural births are more susceptible to this than women who deliver via a C-section. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but sometimes it can cause women to feel embarrassed or self-conscious.

Why it Happens 

When you give birth, your bladder and pelvic muscles can weaken because they have to expand during delivery. In some cases, this can cause nerve damage. Additionally, after the baby arrives, your uterus generally begins to shrink back to its original size. While it does this, it can sit on your bladder and cause extra compression there, giving you added pressure that can cause urinary leakage. Then there are the added hormonal fluctuations, which also affect the bladder.

All of this action takes a toll on your bladder and pelvis. The weaker your bladder becomes, the more likely you are at risk for leaks and accidents. Most of the time, with the right precautions, women are able to recover naturally without intervention. 

Strengthening Your Pelvic Muscles to Regain Bladder Control

Generally, the best thing to do to stop urinary incontinence from happening is to strengthen your pelvic muscles. Kegel exercises are the most effective exercises for this, and you can do them literally anywhere, from standing in line at the grocery store to sitting in the waiting room in your doctor’s office. To learn how to do them, just practice stopping the flow of urine while you’re going to the washroom, and then starting it again. This act of squeezing the pelvic muscles mid-stream is a kegel. 

When you squeeze, try to hold it for up to five seconds. Repeat this for about 10 times, and you have a set of kegels. Aim to do multiple sets per day, such as one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night to space them out. If you don’t see immediate results, don’t worry. It will take some time to train your body, and sometimes it may take a few months to notice a big difference. Just keep trying and you’ll get there.

More Tips on How to Manage Postpartum Urinary Incontinence

Here are some additional tips you can try out to help manage postpartum urinary incontinence at home: 

  • Train yourself to use a bathroom schedule, which will help you control your bladder and avoid extra trips to the washroom.
  • Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as they can trigger your bladder and lead to accidents.
  • If you smoke, or return to smoking after childbirth, think twice about going back to the habit. Not only is nicotine a trigger for bladder muscle spasms, women who smoke may also experience a smoker’s cough, which can lead to leaks each time you cough.
  • Don’t try to limit how much water you drink just to avoid urinating. This can backfire by causing a urinary tract infection or dehydration. 
  • Focus on losing weight in a healthy way. Being overweight can put extra strain on your bladder that can make urinary incontinence symptoms worse.
  • Use incontinence pads or protective underwear until you can get your symptoms under control. This will give you a peace of mind when you’re out and about, and will help you stop worrying about public leaks.

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