We’re all about embarrassing body issues here at Yoppie, especially the ones that no one else wants to discuss. One that’s usually kept hush-hush is urinary incontinence after giving birth. Postpartum urinary incontinence is when urine involuntary leaks, brought on by anything from laughter, coughing, sneezing, or just strenuous activity. It’s very common after giving birth, with more than a third of new mums suffering from it. So… let’s talk about it!
Why does it happen?
Postpartum incontinence happens when pregnancy and the trauma of childbirth put lasting strain on your pelvic-floor muscles. You might already have experienced incontinence during pregnancy, as many women do. This may have been mild and manageable while pregnant, but after giving birth can become a more significant issue, as the delivery can weaken the muscles around your bladder and pelvis. Also, as your uterus shrinks back after delivering your baby, it sits right on your bladder, applying more pressure still.
Picture the bladder as a balloon, and the tied part of the balloon is the urethra. The fuller your bladder becomes, the tighter the sphincter muscles around the urethra squeeze to keep the urine inside. During childbirth these muscles are stretched, and this, combined with changing hormones, means you may experience a weak bladder. In fact, it is not the bladder causing the issue, it is the weakened ligaments - who knew?!
Age and body mass index often contribute to postpartum incontinence, but it can affect anyone after they have given birth, along with a whole bunch of other bodily changes. Even women who have given birth via C-section could experience some degree of postpartum incontinence. Plus, it’s good to know that if you had an epidural you could experience more bladder weakness for a few days after giving birth.
How long will it take to regain control?
It usually takes around 3-6 months for the bladder to return to ‘normal’ and regain control once again. This can be made even shorter by paying attention to these tips:
- Kegel exercises: These help to strengthen the muscles, and can be done as often as you can manage after giving birth. Things like stopping your wee mid-stream during urination, and building up the length of time you hold for, could help. The more you do Kegel exercises, the quicker you will notice your muscles return to normal.
- Train your bladder: As well as training the muscles with Kegel exercises, try to urinate every 30 minutes before there is enough urine buildup to lead to incontinence. You can then start to slowly extend the time between loo visits.
- Avoid constipation: Paying attention to your diet to avoid constipation can help, as added pressure from the bowels can worsen incontinence.
- Drink enough: You may think limiting your water intake helps, but this puts you at risk of dehydration and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Avoid certain drinks: Too much coffee, citrus juices and alcohol can worsen urinary incontinence.
- Wear liners or pads: Absorb any leakages to feel more confident when you’re out and about.
When to visit your GP
Remember that urinary incontinence is very common, but many women are embarrassed to discuss it with their partner, friends, or even their doctor.
During your postpartum period, you will usually have appointments booked in with a healthcare professional who will be monitoring both your baby’s health and your postpartum journey. Don’t be afraid to let them know if you are suffering from any type of urinary incontinence. Aside from the above tips, your nurse or doctor will have other treatment options available that they can discuss with you, and together you can figure out the best way to proceed
Are you going through the flows of postpartum incontinence? We’re all about open conversations at Yoppie, so let us know how you’re managing it, and we will always do our best to answer any questions you have - get in touch on Instagram @itsyoppie.