Pregnancy is an exciting time that's full of anticipation, but it also involves some drastic changes to your body. One change you may not be expecting, however, is little bladder leaks. You may have noticed that everyday activities like laughing, coughing, sneezing or exercising now result in some dampness in your underwear. Incontinence during pregnancy is completely normal and something that nearly all expectant mothers experience.
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 become weakened from the constant strain of carrying around a developing baby. Changing hormone levels during pregnancy can also weaken your pelvic floor.Although it might be surprising, it’s completely natural to have urine leakage during your pregnancy. Try not to worry: it’s perfectly normal.
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.
Do you pee a little when you laugh? Or cough? Or sneeze? If you’re experiencing some leakage, it’s most likely incontinence, which means it’s triggered by laughter, coughing, sneezing – or basically anything that causes a slight strain on your bladder. One of the keys to minimising stress incontinence during pregnancy and urine leakage is to practice pelvic floor exercises. 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 the bladder to spasm and sending you running to the toilet.
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 more intense.
Older maternal age
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 comfortable – during the last weeks of pregnancy, as your baby gets into position for birth, his or her head may be pushing directly onto your bladder, making it harder for you to reliably hold in urine.
Don’t worry. Pregnancy incontinence is typically temporary. Your bladder should return to its pre-motherhood condition shortly after you give birth, as your pelvic floor regains strength. Some women experience incontinence postpartum, but this usually resolves itself within a year. If it doesn’t, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Management and prevention tips
Just because pregnancy incontinence is normal, doesn’t mean that you need to be uncomfortable. There are a number of tips and tricks that can help to minimise the severity of your symptoms and assist postpartum recovery.
You may know them as kegels. Performing kegel exercises strengthens the pelvic floor muscles so they are stronger and more successful at holding in urine, preventing bladder leakage during pregnancy. Read how to perfect your pelvic floor routine here. Adopting a ‘go’ schedule can take some urgency out of your urination and bring some predictability to your toilet trips. Start out by going to the toilet 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 minimise 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 to keep you feeling fresh, clean and comfortable. Always have 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 is specially formulated for urine loss, whereas the traditional feminine hygiene products you might use for your period are formulated for menstrual blood, which is more viscous than urine. Always Discreet liners and pads absorb leaks and odours within seconds, keeping you dry and protected, so that you can successfully manage your pregnancy incontinence for an enjoyable and comfortable pregnancy.