If you have trouble controlling your bladder, you are not alone. Many women experience incontinence during pregnancy and after childbirth!
3 min read
Reviewed by Ingela Ågren
Incontinence? Wetting yourself? Embarrassing… Or…? You have probably heard it is common, but few are willing to talk about it. Unfortunately, incontinence can create both embarrassment and anxiety, although it is fairly common for women to have trouble controlling their bladder after childbirth. The presence of the relaxin hormone in the body increases during pregnancies. Relaxing prepares the body for labour and softens the tissues around the pelvic floor. The weight of the baby creates downward pressure and when the muscles around the bladder and the urethra weaken, it’s not unusual to have some leakage. This is particularly true when you laugh, cough or sneeze. The risk of incontinence increases after the second and third childbirth and also after problematic deliveries.
The good news is, there is a simple cure – squeeze exercises! If you do regular and correct squeeze exercises, there is a good chance you will have a full recovery. To find out if you are doing the exercise correctly, place a clean finger inside your vagina and tighten your vaginal muscles around your finger as much as you can. You should have a sensation of pulling your muscles upwards. If you can’t work out how to do it, ask your midwife to instruct you. You need to do your clench-and-release exercises daily and hold the clench for 20-30 seconds at a time. You can start by laying on your back with bent legs until you have learnt the technique. Imagine that you are stopping your urine mid-flow with an “upward sensation” in your muscles. Repeat eight times. Once you've learned the clenching technique, you can do the exercises standing, anywhere. Set your own squeezing routine, for example; always on the bus, always while cleaning your teeth, always in the canteen queue, or perhaps when breastfeeding. At pharmacies, you can buy so-called kegel balls that can make the exercise even more effective. Inquire about the appropriate model and weight and bring them to your midwife, who will measure your pelvic floor strength and show you the technique. With the kegel balls, you are more likely to do the exercise properly!
If you leak when coughing, sit down to relieve the pelvic floor. If you can’t control your bladder when carrying something heavy, straighten your back and reduce the load. Specially designed urethral devices are available and can be fitted by an Urotherapist. There are also electronic devices available – talk to your midwife at your maternity clinic.
If you are diligent with squeezing exercises but don’t get results, or if you still have problems when your child is six months old, you should seek help. Incontinence may in some cases be treated with acupuncture, medication or surgery. Be mindful not to go to the toilet “just in case”, as this may cause an overactive bladder.
Source: Swedish Health Care Guide
Reviewed by Ingela Ågren