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A guide to what it is, why it happens and what you can do about it
The birth of your child is a magical and exciting time, but the pregnancy journey can leave its mark on your body. Along with the visible signs of stretch marks, baby weight, and the bags that accumulate under your eyes. You may well suffer the less visible and more distressing side effect of incontinence.
When you’re pregnant, it’s easy to assume that once your baby is no longer tapdancing on your bladder everything will go back to normal. But incontinence can last for weeks, months, or in some cases even years after you give birth.
Pregnancy, childbirth and incontinence
During pregnancy surging hormones and stress on your pelvic floor can leave you reaching for incontinence products such panty liners, pads or even specialist pants. But not all incontinence issues have the same cause.
Stress Incontinence is the most common type of incontinence associated with pregnancy. This is when any stress on your pelvic floor such as laughing, coughing, running, jumping, or lifting something heavy, causes a small amount of urine to escape. It can happen both when your bladder is full and when it is empty and can result in discomfort and embarrassing damp patches if you don’t use an appropriate incontinence product.
An Overactive Bladder is caused by bladder irritation or spasms. This can be exasperated by certain foods and drinks and will often mean that you will need to use the toilet more often than is normal. This form of incontinence can also cause you to leak a little urine if you don’t head to the bathroom as soon as you feel the need.
Urge Incontinence is something that most women will deal with during pregnancy due to the common problem is urinary tract infections (UTIs). When you suffer from urge incontinence you will experience a sudden and urgent need to urinate. Once this need strikes even making it as far as the bathroom can by a struggle. As a result, this can be the most difficult form of incontinence to manage, even with the help of incontinence products.
A problem that can be solved
Although living with incontinence can be a challenge, there are a number preventative measures and treatments available to you.
If you are planning to getting pregnant, understanding how to look after your pelvic floor will save you a lot of future distress.
Pelvic floor muscles are the scaffolding around the bladder than controls when you urinate. The stronger this muscle are, the more control you will have over your bladder. Childbirth weakens these muscles so strengthening them in advance will give you a better chance of an incontinence free pregnancy and future.
In addition to following a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight (obesity can exacerbate incontinence), simple pelvic floor exercises done on a regular basis will strengthen the pelvic muscles, making them more resilient to the stress of pregnancy and childbirth.
Pelvic floor exercises are simple to do and don’t require any special equipment (although there are some products available to assist you), you don’t even need to set time aside to do them as they can be easily completed when you’re sat watching TV or before you go to sleep at night.
Despite how simple pelvic floor exercises are to fit into your life, they will show result fairly quickly and in addition to helping prevent incontinence, they are also thought to improve your sex life, and make labour and childbirth slightly easier.
Learn how important these and other abdominal muscles are during pregnancy.
After the birth of your child, a strong pelvic floor will help your body to recover from the trauma of childbirth and get you back on your feet much more quickly. It will also prevent or reduce post-birth incontinence.
For most women, if they do experience post-birth incontinence it will only last a few weeks and have subsided before they stop wearing sanitary pads for lochia (post birth bleeding). However, for some women the problem can be much more severe and long lasting.
If you experience long lasting incontinence there are options available to you:
Talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor
Urinary incontinence following the birth of your child is common but if it continues over a period of several weeks you should speak to a healthcare professional. Midwives, GPs, and health visitors are all trained to give advice on post-birth urinary incontinence and if pelvic floor exercises don’t have the desired effect they will be able to suggest alternative treatment options.
It is not a) part of being a woman or b) part of being a mum
For many years post-birth incontinence was seen as an inevitable part of childbirth. In cases where pelvic floor exercises didn’t resolve the issue women were often expected to just accept the condition. However, modern medicine takes the issue far more seriously and as a result, there are an increasing number of medicinal and surgical options are available.
Some foods and drink can affect incontinence, particularly in the case of an irritated or overactive bladder.
The best way to identify whether food or drink are a major contributor to urinary incontinence is to keep a food diary. You should log everything you eat and drink, along with whether you perceive your incontinence to be better or worse, whether you needed to go to the toilet more than eight times a day, and whether you needed to go to the toilet more than twice during the night. This will give you valuable information and allow you to identify whether something in your diet is exacerbating your incontinence. It will also provide your GP with an insight into your lifestyle should you ask them for help.
There is a vast array of incontinence products available to women including panty liners, pads and incontinence pants. All of which allow women who suffer with differing degrees of incontinence to live a normal life free from the worry of incontinence.
Don’t suffer in silence
No matter your age or how many children you have had, no one needs to live with incontinence indefinitely. Seeking help may feel embarrassing, but the relief of receiving a treatment that leaves you free to enjoy life without the worry of incontinence will be worth every blush.
Urinary incontinence after childbirth is common and this is why HARTMANN Direct offers a range of incontinence products for women that help them to manage the problem. Offering a discreet service, their products are of the best quality and affordable too.