What Causes Poor Bladder Control During Pregnancy?

Discover how better habits and the right TENA product can help you during pregnancy and post-partum

pregnant leaky bladder, PNM, bladder issues pregnancy, pregnant and incontinent

Your need to pee has probably turned into urinary incontinence, or the leaking of urine that is very common during pregnancy (especially when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or strain). Urinary incontinence during pregnancy can also be the result of an overactive bladder. Women who have an overactive bladder (OAB) need to urinate more than usual because their bladders have uncontrollable spasms. In addition, the muscles surrounding the urethra -- the tube through which urine passes from the bladder -- can be affected. These muscles are meant to prevent urine from leaving the body, but they may be "overridden" if the bladder has a strong contraction.

The bladder sphincter is a muscular valve that lies at the bottom of the bladder. It works to control the flow of urine. In pregnancy, the expanding uterus puts pressure on the bladder. The muscles in the bladder sphincter and in the pelvic floor can be overwhelmed by the extra stress or pressure on the bladder. Urine may leak out of the bladder when there is additional pressure exerted -- for example, when a pregnant woman coughs or sneezes.

What do i need to know about my bladder during pregnancy?

You can't be happy with your bladder — involuntary peeing during pregnancy can be annoying, messy, and occasionally embarrassing, but it's normal and (mostly) temporary. Always make sure that you are, in fact, leaking urine. A quick smell test should confirm it; urine smells of ammonia. If the liquid is clear and odorless, there's a slim chance you might be leaking amniotic fluid. Call your practitioner immediately. If you're sure it's urine, mention your urinary incontinence issues to your practitioner at your next visit and see what he or she recommends.

What do I do about a leaky bladder after pregnancy?

  • Do your Kegels! Try to work up to three sets of 30 Kegel exercises a day.
  • Keep your weight gain moderate, since extra pounds put extra pressure on your bladder during pregnancy.
  • Train your bladder to behave. Urinate every 30 minutes — before you have the urge, in other words — and then try to extend the time between pees each day.
  • Try to avoid constipation during pregnancy, so that your full bowels don't put added pressure on your bladder.
  • Keep drinking at least eight glasses of fluids every day. (Cutting back on water to control the peeing only makes you vulnerable to dehydration and urinary tract infections.)
  • Avoid coffee, citrus, tomatoes, soft drinks, and alcohol — all of which can irritate your bladder and make it harder to control those leaks.
  • Pads can help absorb leaking urine (no tampons, please — they don't block the flow of urine and they're off-limits during pregnancy anyway).
  • As a last line of defense, do Kegels or cross your legs when you feel the need to cough or sneeze, or when you're about to laugh or lift something heavy.

Helpful Resources

Incontinence and Fitness

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