Pregnancy incontinence happens as a result of all the amazing changes your body goes through during the nine months of gestation. The weight of carrying around your growing baby gives your body – and your pelvic floor – quite a workout. It can grow weakened from the constant strain of carrying around your little one. Changing hormone levels during pregnancy also weaken your pelvic floor.
Types of pregnancy incontinence
The most common form of pregnancy incontinence is stress incontinence – involuntary bladder leaks that result from a weakened pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is the system of muscles, ligaments, and tissue that supports your bladder, uterus, and anus. When it is weakened, the pelvic floor will give way when pressure – or stress – is applied to it leading to a sprinkle of urine escaping the bladder.
In some cases, incontinence during pregnancy is caused by an overactive bladder, also known as urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is a result of nerve or tissue damage to the bladder that results in frequent, sudden, and intense urges to urinate. During pregnancy, weight from the uterus can press on the nerves leading to the bladder, causing it to spasm and sending you running to the bathroom.
While pregnancy incontinence is a common condition that nearly all women experience, there are a number of risk factors that may make symptoms more frequent or intense. They are:
- Older maternal age
- Being overweight
- Previous vaginal delivery that weakened the pelvic floor or damaged the nerves around the bladder
- Previous pelvic surgery, such as a C-section, that damaged the nerves and tissues around the bladder
- Smoking, which leads to chronic coughing
- Gestational diabetes, which can affect your nerve function
In the early weeks of pregnancy, you may pee more frequently because your growing uterus is still situated within the pelvis and competes for space with the bladder. As the uterus rises into the abdomen after the 12th week, you’ll notice you have to go less frequently. But don’t get too comfy. During the last weeks of pregnancy, as your baby gets in position for birth, her head may be pushing directly on your bladder, making it harder to hold in urine reliably.
Don’t worry. Pregnancy incontinence is typically temporary. Your bladder should return to its pre-motherhood condition not long after you give birth as your pelvic floor regains strength. Some women experience incontinence postpartum, but this usually resolves within a year. If it doesn’t, reach out to your doctor.
Management and prevention tips
Just because pregnancy incontinence is normal doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortable. There are a number of management tools and techniques that can help you minimize the severity of your symptoms and aid in postpartum recovery.
You may know them as kegels. Performing kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles so they are better able to hold in urine and prevent bladder leakage during pregnancy. Read how to perfect your pelvic floor routine here.
Adopting a ‘go’ schedule can take some of urgency out of your urination and bring some predictability to your bathroom needs. Start out going to the bathroom every two hours, whether you feel the urge to urinate or not. Adjust your schedule if you feel you need to go more frequently. Maintaining an empty bladder can minimize little leaks throughout the day.
Gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy - and also inevitable. However, making sure not to put on too much weight can go a long way in alleviating the symptoms of pregnancy incontinence.
Wear a urinary incontinence liner or pad from ALWAYS DISCREET to protect your underwear and keep you feeling fresh, clean, and comfortable. Always has taken their trusted absorbency technology and applied it to urinary products, for bladder protection that is thin, feminine, and flexible – nothing like the bulky incontinence products you may be used to. ALWAYS DISCREET are specially formulated for urine loss versus traditional feminine hygiene products you might use for your period that are formulated for menstrual blood, which is more viscous than urine. ALWAYS DISCREET liners and pads absorb leaks and odors within seconds, keeping you dry and protected, so you can successfully manage your pregnancy incontinence for an enjoyable and comfortable pregnancy.