How common is incontinence during pregnancy?

Can incontinence in pregnancy be avoided, or should it just be an accepted part of pregnancy?

Pregnancy should be exciting time, one where you relax and enjoy the months of carrying your baby and looking forward to the birth. There will be moments of sheer joy but some of discomfort too. One is urinary incontinence and may mean you need to use incontinence pants to help you manage these small escape of urine.

Incontinence however, is not a by-product of being pregnant that you have to accept or put up with.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence or bladder weakness has several causes. Stress incontinence is the most common reason for urinary incontinence during pregnancy, and after birth too. This is when there is an escape of urine when you cough, sneeze, run, jump or even lift something heavy.

Women who suffer stress incontinence can also suffer from urge incontinence, caused by an overactive bladder. Even though you may only have a small amount of urine in your bladder, the urge ‘to go’ can be overwhelming meaning you leak a little before you reach the toilet.

In pregnancy, the weight of the growing baby is a major contributor to urinary incontinence. In the third trimester, the weight of the baby will often place stress of the ligaments supporting the bladder, causing them the surrounding muscles to stretch. Along with an influx of hormones, the structures around the bladder becomes less effective.

Constipation can compound the issue of urinary incontinence leading to many women needing incontinence pants to help manage accidental leakage.

How long does incontinence last after pregnancy?

In most cases, women find that within a few weeks of giving birth, up until 6 months afterwards, they find that they regain control of their bladder.

Can incontinence in pregnancy be avoided?

There is no doubt that strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help enormously when it comes to controlling or preventing incontinence.

Pregnant women are encouraged to do pelvic floor muscles, three time a day with eight to ten repetitions of the exercise each time. These exercises are not just important when you are pregnant but before and after pregnancy too. They not only help you to control when you urinate, but are instrumental in heightening other enjoyment too.

The exercises are simple: pull in your muscles in your vagina area. If you are struggling to identify them, stop your flow of urine the next time you urinate – these are your pelvic muscles! But don’t do this on a regular basis as it is thought it may contribute to urinary tract infections.

Clench your pelvic floor muscles seconds and then relax. Repeat this exercise eight to 10 times, three times a day. When you clench hold for a few seconds and then make sure when you release the muscles that these pelvic floor muscles are completely relaxed.

Can accidents be avoided?

Pelvic floor exercises are incredibly helpful and for some women, these are the key to enjoying pregnancy without too many incontinence issues. Clearly, there will be times, especially in late pregnancy where accidents will happen, simply from a full bladder and a growing baby sat on it! Incontinence pants can be helpful in not only managing the problem, but issues such as smell and soreness.

As counter intuitive as it sounds, drinking plenty of water also helps to calm an overactive bladder, helping to settle an irritated bladder lining. Urine should be pale-yellow or clear rather than golden yellow or darker in colour.

Here are a few helpful hints and tips when it comes to managing incontinence:

* Use products specifically designed for incontinence, rather than sanitary wear. As well as helping to trap odour, incontinence products are specifically designed to prevent soreness and trap larger amount of fluid in their core, meaning it is not sat next to the skin.

* Cut down or cut out fluids and foods that are known to irritate the bladder. Concentrated fruit juices, such as orange, cranberry and so on can all be too acidic, causing an already irritated bladder to become even more inflamed.

* Try to avoid becoming constipated as this too can contribute to urinary incontinence.

What about medical solutions?

For some pregnant women, controlling incontinence with incontinence pants and other products, as well as drinking more water and pelvic floor muscles are not enough to control the issue. Many GPs will refer women to a continence adviser, a specialist nurse who can help you manage problems.

It may be necessary in severe cases to refer women to a urogynaecologist for further assessment and help.

If you feel that incontinence is becoming a growing issue in your pregnancy, talk to your midwife or doctor.

HARTMANN Direct supply private and commercial customers with a range of high quality incontinence products. Light absorbency pads are suitable for use during and after pregnancy; with discreet delivery too, confidently managing incontinence just got easier.

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