An often unspoken side effect of being pregnant, incontinence is inconvenient and embarrassing. Many expectant mothers turn to incontinence products during their pregnancy to help manage its effects.
Leaking urine when laughing, coughing or sneezing is thought to be an embarrassing condition but, with around half of expectant and new mums suffering from incontinence, albeit for a short time, the time has come to start talking openly about what can be done to help manage accidental leaking of urine during pregnancy.
What is incontinence?
There are various types of incontinence, also known as bladder weakness. Stress incontinence is the most common form that affects women during pregnancy and after the birth too. This is when a little urine is leaked when someone coughs, sneezes, runs, jumps or lifts heavy objects.
Of those pregnant women who suffer from stress incontinence, around two-thirds are thought to suffer from urge incontinence too. This is caused by an overactive bladder. You may feel a sudden urge to go, even though your bladder may be empty but means you leak urine before you can reach the loo.
Research indicates that women over 35 and overweight women are thought to be at greater risk of incontinence during and after pregnancy.
Why is it a problem in pregnancy?
Understanding why incontinence happens when you are pregnant and after the birth is the first step in being able to manage it with the aid of incontinence products, as well as taking preventative measures.
* The weight of pregnancy is a great contributor to accidental leaks of urine. During the third trimester, for example, the uterus is resting on the bladder. Surrounding muscles and ligaments stretch as a result. If they become too relaxed, they are less effective at supporting the bladder which in turn, leads to bladder weakness.
* Compounding the problem are hormones. These make tissues and joints more elastic in preparation for the birth. These hormones also weaken the muscles that control the release of urine, preventing them from working correctly.
* During delivery muscles and ligaments stretch with soft tissues in the perineum also suffering trauma. All these combine to make the situation worse. Women who undergo a C-section birth may also find that they suffer from incontinence as a result of muscles being stretched during delivery.
Many women find that they regain control of their bladder within three to six months, during which time the body recovers from both pregnancy and birth.
Is incontinence during pregnancy preventable?
You would think that incontinence is part and parcel of pregnancy – after all, you cannot prevent the baby from growing nor from sitting on your bladder!
There are. However, a few things that you can do that can help to prevent and manage incontinence in pregnancy:
* Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles before, during and after pregnancy is essential. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles and ligaments that are associated with the bladder and the bowel. They are a sling like muscle that travel from the front of the body, from the pubic bone to the base of the spine at the back. Keeping these in great shape with regular ‘clench and release’ pelvic floor exercises will help.
* Some pregnant women and new mums also find that small changes in diet can also help. Avoiding caffeine drinks or food containing high levels of acid, such as grapefruit can also contribute to managing incontinence. Spicy foods can also irritate the bladder.
* Avoiding constipation by drinking plenty of water and upping fibre intake can also be useful.
Most women find that they can control and manage incontinence using diet and exercise. The use of incontinence products can also help to manage it too, avoiding embarrassing leaks and patches.
Medical help for incontinence
There are some women, however, who do struggle with incontinence and may need medical help from a specially trained nurse or their GP.
Even though it be a short term issue that will dissipate and improve with time, putting up with incontinence during and after pregnancy is not an option. If you are leaking large amounts of urine, it is important you talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor.
There is a range of medications that can stem the flow as well as the services of a specialist incontinence nurse. Like ageing, incontinence in pregnancy is not inevitable or an accepted part of the experience.
Managing incontinence means you can enjoy the pregnancy and being a new mum without the additional worry of getting to the loo on time.
HARTMANN Direct supply incontinence products for both urinary and bowel incontinence to both individual and commercial customers. Understanding the need for discreet, high quality and affordable products, balanced with information on managing incontinence, HARTMANN Direct have become a leading supplier in the UK.
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