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Women expect to experience a lot of discomfort during pregnancy, but not many realise that the period after giving birth comes with its own challenges. Among other physical discomforts, things are not always going to be the same when it comes to bladder control after having a vaginal birth and women often experience urinary incontinence.
What is Postpartum Urinary Incontinence?
Uncontrolled urine leakage is known as urinary incontinence, and it is experienced by at least 1 in 3 women who have had vaginal births. There are two types of urinary incontinence, namely stress and urge incontinence.
You are said to have stress incontinence after birth if you find yourself leak when you are laughing hard, coughing, sneezing, jumping or doing any heavy lifting. Certain hormones prepare your body for delivery, making the joints and tissues more elastic, resulting in low bladder strength and control.
Other women may experience needing to relieve themselves even though their bladder is not full, meaning they are going through urge incontinence after birth, and most often find themselves leak before they get to the bathroom.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence After Pregnancy?
There are many causes of urinary incontinence after pregnancy. As the pelvis is always stretching during pregnancy, the bladder muscles tend to weaken, causing the urethra to lose control when trying to hold urine. Some of the main causes of urinary incontinence after pregnancy are:
- Multiple childbirths
- Having carried a large baby, putting extra pressure on the vagina during delivery
- Prolonged pushing for the duration of a normal pregnancy
- Vaginal birth (also applicable to those who have been through a C- Section but have had a vaginal birth before.)
- A vaginal birth where the use of forceps was needed.
- Inherited from family
How to Deal with Postnatal Incontinence
Just when you thought all the discomfort was over and done with, you realise you have to find a postpartum urinary incontinence treatment that will work for you. Here are things you can try:
1. Use a Pessary
A pessary is a small ring made of silicone that supports the internal structure of the vagina after it is inserted into it. It can be put on in the morning before you start your day, and it can be taken off at night before you go to bed. Some women choose to use a pessary only when they are playing tennis or going for a jog as these may trigger unwanted squirts.
A procedure known as ‘Bladder Sling’ surgery can be done where the doctor will insert a U-Shaped mesh sling which will be able to support the urethra permanently. This surgery has a 90% chance of success and should only be considered by those who don’t want any more children. If you do not wish for any more pregnancies, then having this surgery for incontinence after childbirth is the best option for you.
3. Sanitary Pads
Avoid those rather embarrassing sudden squirts in that can happen in public by wearing a sanitary pad to help catch any unwanted leakage. Just make sure to change it regularly to avoid developing any infections. This is a very simple way of keeping yourself clean and hygienic when you are out if you suffer from urinary incontinence.
4. Answer Nature’s Call
If you have urinary incontinence, then holding your pee in if you are busy is not the best idea and could lead to more leakage. Take the time to stop what you are doing and empty your bladder; not only will you feel better, but you avoid those hassles that come when you leak.
5. Tighten the Muscles
When you are with a group of people, or anywhere for that matter, and feel either a sneeze or a cough coming, cross your legs. This will help to tighten the pelvic muscles and avoid the sudden squirt that comes with them.
6. Kegel Exercises
Most would know these as exercises to be done during pregnancy, but they’re also very good for helping to strengthen your pelvic muscles after you have delivered.
How Long Does Incontinence Last After Childbirth?
This depends on the individual as for most cases; the problem will go away within a few weeks to a year. For others, however, the problem may reappear every now and then over the years. As the problem is more prevalent with age, women who have had C-Sections can also experience urinary incontinence during the time of menopause.
When to Call the Doctor
It is usually women who have vaginal births who experience problems with their bladder and pelvic muscles due to the strenuous pushing that takes place during childbirth. It is rare to suffer from urinary incontinence after a caesarean birth; however, if you experience any burning sensations or pain when you urinate, it is always advisable to speak to your doctor about it. You will be tested for Urinary Tract Infection, and if that is not the case, then you will be referred to a urogynecologist.
New mothers already have so much to do, so it can be very difficult when you have to deal with additional medical issues such as urinary incontinence after you have given birth to your child. However, if you follow your doctor’s advice, you will be able to manage your situation properly.
Also Read: Kegel (Pelvic floor) exercise after birth