Coping With Incontinence After Pregnancy

04 April 2017

After nine months of worry, fear, trepidation and excitement, that little bundle of joy, which will change your life forever, arrives. There are so many positives to having a baby that people rarely mention some of the minor problems that having a baby can create.

Mother And Baby

If you are a mother that is suffering from any of these problems, though, you will be keen to get as much information as possible, and this article is designed to assist you with one of the more common post pregnancy issues – incontinence.

If you have recently had a baby, and are having to deal with the inconvenience and embarrassment of incontinence, then you are not alone. According to the NHS, up to 6 million people in the UK suffer from incontinence, with the most common causes in women being pregnancy and vaginal birth (C section births can also be an issue from pressure through pregnancy causing bladder irritation). It will therefore not surprise you to know that incontinence is a problem experienced by more women than men.

The Pelvic Floor Muscles

If you have ever attended any prenatal classes, you will have been shown some Pelvic Floor Exercises. The purpose of these exercises is to strengthen the area of the body known as your pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor is, in essence, the support system for a large group of muscles, which make up the core of the body. Stretched taut like a trampoline, they cover the area from the tailbone to the pubic bone, and from side to side. The pelvic floor has two primary roles within the body, one as mentioned above to provide support and stability to your spine and abdominal muscles. The other function of the pelvic floor is to wrap around and cover any areas of the body where access to or from the body is required.

When it comes to the female body, this means three areas, the urethra, vagina and anus. The Pelvic floor muscles have a complex and important role to perform within the body, as not only do they need to provide support, but they also need to provide resistance or allow entry to the body, depending on the time-specific requirements.

A Baby Changes Everything

As a young girl, your body becomes accustomed to dealing with a full bladder and the other trials and tribulations of everyday life. Carrying a baby, however, is an entirely different situation. The extra weight created by that growing baby can cause a lot of stress on the pelvic floor, ultimately leading to a loss of control and some urine leakage, otherwise known as incontinence. For pregnant ladies, this sounds entirely reasonable, understandable even, but why does the incontinence continue after the birth?

Giving Birth Naturally

MotherhoodWhenever a woman gives birth naturally there is a lot of pressure placed upon the muscles, sometimes in a worst case scenario, the muscles can tear. Perhaps a good analogy is that of a 5 pence plastic carrier bag. If you overload that bag and cause it to stretch beyond a certain point, it will never return to its original shape or size. This is similar to what happens to the pelvic floor muscles when giving birth naturally, which is why statistically between 29 and 41 percent of women giving birth end up suffering some form of incontinence. This compares negatively with those women who have a C-section, where the statistics vary from to between 14 and 25 percent.

The good news though is that unlike the plastic bag mentioned above, it is possible to recover the strength and shape in your pelvic floor muscles by performing certain exercises. Don’t worry; you don’t need to visit the gym to follow these exercises, they can be done easily anywhere at any time.

How To Perform Pelvic Floor Exercises

As mentioned above, Pelvic Floor Exercises are quick and easy to perform, regardless of location. You could even do them standing in the queue at the supermarket, and nobody would be any the wiser. The more often you perform them, the stronger your muscles will become, and hopefully the quicker your incontinence issues will be resolved.

If you weren’t paying enough attention at those prenatal classes, or simply want a quick reminder here are some instructions on how to perform pelvic floor exercises.

  • Sit down on the floor in a comfortable position and totally relax. Concentrate on your back passage, and squeeze the muscles tight as if you desperately needed to poo, but were not near a toilet. Now focus on the front part of your pelvic floor, as if you were trying to stop wetting yourself.
  • Try to lift up your pelvic floor. Initially aim for about 3 seconds, but as you gain strength and confidence you should be able to build this up towards about ten seconds in total.
  • Repeat the exercises as many times as you can, but ensure that you rest between each set for the same length of time that you performed the task.
  • Initially, you should aim for three repetitions per session, again working your way up to ten as your strength and control improve.

Points to note

It is important to relax the rest of your body when performing these exercises; you are focusing all your efforts on that particular area, do ensure your shoulders, hands, buttocks and feet remain nice and relaxed.

As you get more experienced, you will be able to perform these exercises whilst standing up. This then increases the number of locations where you can perform them.

It important if you are suffering from incontinence after pregnancy to remember that in the vast majority of cases, this needn’t be a permanent problem. By working hard at the exercises above your body will quickly return to its former glory, and you can enjoy your beautiful baby. A little bit of incontinence being a small price to pay.