Incontinence After Childbirth

Date: 14/09/20

Around a third of women suffer some degree of urinary incontinence following childbirth and this is nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed of. It usually takes the form of stress incontinence, where a small amount of urine leaks when you cough, laugh or sneeze, or during sudden or vigorous movements, which can be rectified with incontinence pants for women.

The good news is that these issues will normally resolve in around three to six months, as your body recovers, and there are a number of steps you can take to speed up the process. It is important to remember that this is perfectly normal and that you are not alone. Your partner, GP and midwife can all support you and there are also lots of products available through IncoDirect to help you deal with the problem comfortably and discreetly.

What causes incontinence after childbirth?

There are a number of factors that contribute to incontinence after childbirth (also known as post-natal or post-partum incontinence). Firstly, the weight of the growing baby will stretch and weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor, which are used to control the flow of urine from the bladder. Secondly, the hormones released by the body in preparation for the birth will stretch and relax the muscles. Finally, the trauma of childbirth itself will further weaken and damage the pelvic floor, especially if you have a complex delivery involving forceps or an episiotomy.

If you have had an epidural during the delivery, it may take a few days for your body to be able to recognise when you need to pass water, but this will usually resolve itself within a few days.

As your body recovers from the birth, the shrinking uterus will press directly on the bladder, and this can make problems with the pelvic floor and bladder sphincter muscles feel worse. Add the regular strain of bending to pick up a baby, who gets heavier every week, and it’s easy to see why incontinence is an issue for new mums, however incontinence pants for women are available to use until this passes.

What are the risk factors?

  • Women who experience incontinence during pregnancy are up to three times as likely to experience similar issues after the birth.
  • You are also twice as likely to suffer incontinence after childbirth following a vaginal birth compared to a caesarean section.
  • Other factors that increase the risk are being overweight or obese or having a multiple pregnancy, both of which put extra strain on the pelvic floor.
  • Having had a previous child or children, can also leave the muscles weakened.

Is incontinence after childbirth inevitable?

Many women assume that incontinence following childbirth is inevitable, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. Maintaining a strong core during pregnancy can make a real difference, and there is no reason that a healthy pregnant woman should not continue to exercise to strengthen her core with the right supervision. Pre-natal yoga and specifically targeted pelvic floor exercises, with the guidance of a physical therapist or personal trainer, can significantly reduce your risk.

How to deal with incontinence after childbirth

If you do experience incontinence following childbirth, there are a number of steps you can take to ease the impact of the problem, including:

  • Pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegel exercises)
  • Reducing your caffeine intake
  • Avoiding spicy or acidic food and drink
  • Stopping smoking
  • Trying to lose your baby weight quickly but safely

Although it is very tempting to do so, you should not cut back on your fluid intake in response to incontinence issues, as this can have actually made things worse. It will reduce your bladder capacity and will create concentrated urine that will irritate your bladder and make you want to urinate even more. It also puts you at risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

When to seek medical help

incontinence following childbirth is nothing to be ashamed of and you should not hesitate to discuss it with your partner, your GP and your midwife. You should also be on the lookout for other factors that may be causing your leakage, such as UTIs. If you experience stinging or burning when you pass water, or if your urine is cloudy or smelly, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

We’re here to help

IncoDirect are here to support new mums with a wide range of incontinence pants for women,  all delivered direct to your door in discreet packaging so that only you will know. If you need any help in selecting the right products, talk to your midwife or call our friendly team who will be happy to help.

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