Country Selector Icon


Incontinence During Pregnancy & After Childbirth

Pregnant couple laughing on the couch

Pregnancy is an exciting time full of anticipation. It also involves some drastic changes to your body. Some changes you may not be expecting are frequent urges to urinate or the occasional bladder leak during pregnancy. You may have noticed that everyday activities like laughing, coughing, sneezing or exercising result in some dampness in your underwear. Having incontinence during and after pregnancy is normal and something that nearly all expecting mothers experience.

What Causes Pregnancy Incontinence?

First, let's start off by defining what urinary incontinence is, which is the loss of bladder control.

When you become pregnant, you'll notice a number of changes to your body during the nine months of gestation. As baby grows, so does the amount of pressure on the bladder. Your pelvic floor muscles can grow weakened from the constant strain of carrying around your little one. Changing hormone levels during pregnancy can also weaken your pelvic floor.

This pressure on the bladder can send you running to the bathroom frequently – and sometimes you may not make it in time, hence those accidental bladder leaks.

Types of Pregnancy Incontinence

The two main types of urinary incontinence in pregnant women are stress and urge incontinence (also known as an overactive bladder).

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.

Urine Frequency in Early Pregnancy

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 urine less frequently. But don’t get too comfy. During the last weeks of pregnancy, as your baby gets in position for birth, his or her head may be pushing directly on your bladder, making it harder to hold in urine reliably.

Don’t worry. If you're experiencing unexpected urine leaks while pregnant, it is typically temporary. Your bladder should return to its pre-motherhood condition not long after you give birth as your pelvic floor muscle regains strength. Some women experience urinary incontinence postpartum, but this usually resolves within a year. If it doesn’t, reach out to your doctor.

Risk Factors for Incontinence When Pregnant

While urinary incontinence during pregnancy is a common condition that nearly all women experience, there are a number of risk factors and underlying medical conditions that may make symptoms more frequent or intense, which include:

  • 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
  • Bladder infections, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Smoking, which leads to chronic coughing
  • Gestational diabetes, which can affect your nerve function

How to Prevent or Treat Incontinence During Pregnancy

Just because incontinence is normal for pregnant women doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortable. Use these management tools and techniques to help you minimize the severity of your symptoms and aid in postpartum recovery:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises
    Pelvic floor exercises, also known as kegel exercises, strengthen the pelvic floor muscles so they are better able to hold in urine and prevent bladder leakage during pregnancy. The great thing about kegel exercises is that they are discreet, and you can conveniently strengthen your pelvic floor muscles throughout the day.

  • Stay on Schedule
    Adopting a ‘go’ schedule can take some urgency out of your urination and bring some predictability to when you go to the bathroom. 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 urinate more frequently. Maintaining an empty bladder can minimize urine leakage throughout the day and improve the control of your bladder.

  • Watch the Gain
    Gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy–and inevitable. However, making sure not to put on too much weight can go a long way in alleviating the symptoms.

  • Wear Protection
    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 products are specially formulated for involuntary loss of urine 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 bladder leaks for an enjoyable and comfortable pregnancy.

What Causes Incontinence After Pregnancy and Childbirth?

Bladder control problems after childbirth will often improve in the first six months as your body heals. Until then, you may feel a bit baffled by this new reality. We’re here to help you make sense of it all.

Here are some factors that may add to your risk of experiencing bladder leaks after pregnancy:

  • Having your first baby
  • Delivering a large baby
  • Experiencing a long labor or a difficult vaginal delivery
  • Having a C-section

Did you have a caesarean section? Some might think that a C-section can eliminate the impacts of labor on the pelvic floor. It is actually the weight of your baby through your pregnancy that weakens your pelvic muscles. So even if you had a C-section, you may still experience a sensitive bladder.

Symptoms of Post-partum Incontinence

Like the types of incontinence during your pregnancy, you may experience stress incontinence or urge incontinence after giving birth.

Signs you may have stress urinary incontinence include urinating when you:

  • Cough
  • Sneeze
  • Lift
  • Laugh
  • Exercise

Signs you may have urge incontinence include:

How to Treat Urinary Incontinence After Pregnancy?

Stress Incontinence Remedies:

Regular kegel exercises, or pelvic floor muscle training, will speed up the process of get your strength and control back quickly after birth. Also, remember that any "pushing down" action in the first weeks after labor may stress or further stretch your pelvic floor. Protect those muscles by following these tips:

  • Squeeze, lift and hold your pelvic floor muscles before you sneeze, cough, blow your nose or lift an object
  • Cross your legs and squeeze tightly together before coughing or sneezing
  • Do not lift heavy loads
  • Avoid exercises that make your pelvic area feel strained
  • Shed some extra pounds to reduce extra pressure on your bladder

If your sensitive bladder doesn’t improve after six months, talk to your women's health doctor. He or she can help try new ideas for treatment or explore other possible causes of the stress incontinence you’re experiencing.

Urge Incontinence Treatments and Remedies:

Staying on a bathroom schedule can serve to alleviate some of the urgency associated with having an overactive bladder. In addition, there are some straightforward lifestyle changes that can help control your bladder after pregnancy:

  • Adopt a bladder-friendly diet
  • Double void–wait 30 seconds after you urinate and void again to make sure your bladder is empty
  • Stay hydrated
  • Talk to your doctor about medication