Pregnancy Incontinence and Your Urinary Health
You may be surprised to learn that along with folic acid supplements and morning sickness, bladder leakage is just another common, pregnancy-related health issue. Pregnancy incontinence is perfectly normal and we'll explain here exactly what happens to your bladder throughout pregnancy and after birth. As you'll discover, it goes through quite a stressful time.
The timeline below shows how pregnancy affects your urinary health:
One of the early signs of pregnancy is the increasing need to urinate frequently. Why? Well, when you're pregnant, the amount of blood your body processes increases dramatically, which leads to a lot of fluid being passed through to your bladder. At the same time, your growing uterus (at 12 weeks it's the size of a grapefruit!) is putting extra pressure on the bladder, which sits right below it!
TIP: drink plenty of fluids, but cut down on diuretic drinks like tea and coffee. Now's the best time to start your pelvic floor exercises.
You may notice that you need to get up and urinate more often, especially during the night. That's because when you lie down some of the fluid you retain in your legs and feet during the day makes its way back into your blood – and your bladder. So pregnancy incontinence is very normal at this stage. As your baby grows, your pelvic floor muscles come under increasing strain. Also, your body produces a muscle relaxant called progesterone to enable your body to accommodate your growing baby.
TIP: lean forward when you urinate to completely empty your bladder.
During this trimester, your baby puts on most of its weight, causing it to really press on your bladder. Stress incontinence – losing urine when you cough or sneeze - is very common at this stage. This is also when your body produces a lot more progesterone, enabling it to expand as your baby grows. If you're leaking a lot it could be amniotic fluid, a clear, odorless liquid sometimes speckled with mucus or blood. Should this occur, make sure you contact your doctor.
TIP: if you feel pain or burning when you urinate, talk to your doctor, as you could have a urinary tract infection.
First Few Days After Birth
For the first few days following the birth, you'll urinate frequently and in greater quantities as your body gets rid of the extra fluid retained in pregnancy.
New mothers have a 20% chance of developing post-pregnancy stress incontinence (see Types of Incontinence in Women for a description) after the birth. What's more, if you have a forceps delivery, the pelvic floor muscles can often get very stretched and there's a 36% chance you'll experience incontinence. Within seven to ten days, you should go to the bathroom as regularly as you did pre-pregnancy, however, your pelvic floor muscles will be very stretched.
TIP: it's really important to do your pelvic floor exercises now as this will help you get your bladder control back.
Talk to other mothers and you'll find it's very common for women to experience incontinence the months following birth. It can really affect your well-being.
Research has shown pregnancy incontinence can also contribute to postnatal depression, so it's important not to let it get you down. Wearing TENA® incontinence products will immediately help you feel fresh, confident and secure, as this type of protection is designed to lock away any urine leakage, and TENA® protection has Odour Control, so there are no tell-tale odours. You should also try and remember to do your pelvic floor exercises regularly to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. For guidance, follow our gentle exercise program. If you‘re worried about bladder leaks, see your doctor.
TIP: When you meet up with the other mothers you met during pregnancy, don't be embarrassed to mention it; it is very common and it is likely they have experienced or will experience it themselves. It is always good to talk to people who know what it's like. We invite you to share your story in our Fearless Stories section and encourage other mothers who experience the Unexpected Leak™
“I purchased these for use for the birth of my second child. It gave me great peace of mind to know that I would not leak...”
- TENA® Customer in Greenwood, BC