Urinary incontinence is something that can take new mums by surprise. No one told them that from early pregnancy they can have accidental escapes of urine or that in late pregnancy, they will find it difficult to get to the toilet in time.
Neither did they realise that they would have to learn to manage incontinence in the first few weeks of motherhood with incontinence pads.
However, attitudes to the treatment of incontinence in women are changing, and it is no longer seen as an inevitable and acceptable part of being pregnant.
It is usually a short term issue
In the main, incontinence during pregnancy is a short-term issue and one that disappears once the baby is delivered.
This is because the surging hormones of early pregnancy can irritate the pelvic floor muscle. This is the muscle that helps you control when you urinate but when it is under stress, as it can be in early pregnancy, you may notice you leak a small amount of urine before you manage to get to the bathroom.
During labour, the pelvic muscle can be stretched, leading to it being ‘out of shape’ and this may lead to post-pregnancy incontinence.
It is a muscle that can also be damaged during labour and birth too. And this can happen no matter what kind of birth you have, whether a Caesarean or vaginal birth.
The good news is that in the majority of cases, urinary incontinence in pregnancy and after birth is something that can be reversed. What suggestions are there for managing and controlling incontinence?
#1 Manage with incontinence pads and products
Clearly, leaking urine is something that is embarrassing and a nuisance but the answer is not to lock yourself away for the next few months!
Incontinence products have come a long way in recent years in terms of their discreetness and reliability.
You may find that a slimline incontinence pad is ideal for helping you manage your bladder and occasional leaks of urine.
If you find that at times the amount you leak is a lot more, using a thicker pad will help. In some cases, women find using incontinence pants the answer to incontinence problems.
#2 Get pelvic floor muscle in good shape and keep it in good shape
There is a growing voice around pregnancy and incontinence and many first time mums will today find that they receive a lot more information on their pelvic floor health that other mums did.
For too long, incontinence in women was seen as something ‘women suffered with’ due to pregnancy and childbirth.
But medical evidence has found that with a little more knowledge and support during pregnancy about the pelvic floor muscle, women were less likely to suffer the embarrassing effects of leaking urine.
As well as managing incontinence with pads, you should also keep your pelvic floor in good shape with pelvic floor muscle exercises.
There clench and release exercises are really simple to do and can be done anywhere, any time. Practising a set of 10 clench and releases around three times a day is enough to keep your pelvic floor in great shape.
As well as helping you to control your bladder, a toned pelvic floor muscle makes for an ‘easier’ labour and birth some experts say but is also essential for orgasms too.
#3 Seek help, advice and treatment
If there is one key takeaway point regarding incontinence for new mums, it is that incontinence is not inevitable with being pregnant or being a mum. Neither is it something to be embarrassed about.
There are courses of actions to help new mums with incontinence but when it lasts longer than a few weeks after the birth, you should seek help.
There are medical treatments that work well alongside pelvic floor exercises as well as lifestyle and diet changes that help too.
Surgery may be one option in the case of medical trauma and there are medications too that can help to control incontinence.
But the biggest piece of supportive advice for new mums is this: incontinence can happen but talk to your midwife about the latest advice and support on managing it.
HARTMANN Direct is a well-known, online retailer of incontinence pads, perfect for use during and after pregnancy.