• Incontinence After Childbirth

    10th January 2018 | donaldt
  • Incontinence after childbirth is more common than you think but it not something you usually talk about unless the problem is really severe. Leaking when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump is not normal and the problem should always be addressed to prevent worsening later on in life.

    Incontinence associated with pregnancy is usually one of two types: stress and/or urgency.

    Stress incontinence occurs when you laugh, cough, sneeze or jump and is due to the increased pressure on the bladder by the uterus.

    It is especially common in the third trimester due to the increasing size of the baby and is also affected by the hormones that make the tissues and joints more elastic in preparation for delivery.

    Urgency is the strong feeling of needing to use the bathroom to urinate and is usually due to hormones. You may need to go to the toilet many times during the day and night and may even leak before you get there.

    Your Pelvic Floor

    The tissues and muscles which support your uterus, bladder and bowel are known as the pelvic floor. They run from the front of your pelvis in the front to the base of your spine at the back. During pregnancy, a combination of increased pressure and hormonal influence can weaken the muscles. During birth, the pelvic floor is stretched and in some cases may be torn which can further weaken the area.

    Having a weak pelvic floor means that it is harder for you to control leaking and it is essential to strengthen these muscles during pregnancy and after giving birth.

    Following childbirth

    It is likely that you are unable to feel the sensation of a full bladder right after giving birth so it is a good idea to go to the toilet at regular intervals throughout the day for the first few days. After a couple of days start to go to the bathroom only when you feel you need to. Pelvic floor exercises can be started right after giving birth and are a proven and effective way of strengthening the muscles and treating incontinence. Doing these exercises will also help your body to heal and will reduce the swelling caused by stitches and bruising, so the sooner you start your exercises the better.

    Remember to drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated drinks which can irritate your bladder and make it harder for you to avoid leaking. You may think that if you drink less you will urinate less but this will only make your urine more concentrated and irritate the bladder even more, resulting in more urgency.

    Physiotherapy can help!

    Incontinence after childbirth responds well to exercise and and lifestyle adjustments if necessary. Seek help from a Women’s Health physiotherapist if you still have issues with leaking 6-8 weeks after giving birth. Incontinence is not something you should accept as being part and parcel of having children!


    Audrey Galea Souchet