There's a lot of stuff going on down there when you have a baby. Your body grows an entirely new organ — the placenta — to nourish and carry the entirely new and unique human being you're creating. Pretty amazing. But not all the changes are equally fun to write home about. We're talking about you, postpartum urinary incontinence.
If you're having bladder problems after having a baby, read on to find out what's going on and what you can do about it.
Postpartum urinary incontinence.
Postpartum urinary incontinence. Such a scientific name for not being able to hold your pee. Incontinence is incredibly widespread among new moms — affecting as many as 7 million women in the U.S. It's caused by weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles, which can happen from the strain of carrying a heavy baby around for nine months and during the course of a vaginal delivery.
So it's not surprising that a study published in the journal of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that new moms who delivered vaginally were more likely to have urinary incontinence one year after having a baby than moms who had C-sections.
Pregnancy hormones can also play a part. (No surprise there.) By relaxing tissues and joints to help with delivery, they decrease support for your bladder.
There are two types of incontinence: stress and urge.
- If you leak urine when you laugh too hard, sneeze, cough, run or jump, you have stress incontinence
- If you have sudden urges to go (even though your bladder may be nearly empty) but leak before you can make it to the bathroom, you have urge incontinence
- Some women suffer from both types of incontinence
While urinary incontinence is very common among new moms and women who have had babies, the Office on Women's Health says it's not a normal part of aging and can be treated.
Who treats postpartum urinary incontinence?
Talk to your OB-GYN or primary care physician if you're having symptoms of urinary incontinence. They will work with you to create a treatment plan, which may include things you can do at home. If your symptoms don't improve, you may be referred to a specialist, such as an urologist or urogynecologist.
Home treatments for postpartum urinary incontinence.
While medications and surgery are both options for treating incontinence, your doctor will likely have you try less invasive treatment options first. These may include:
- Kegels: Find a how-to here from the National Association for Incontinence
- Bladder training: Use this handy bladder tracker from the OWH. Go at set times, then gradually add 15 minutes between bathroom visits.
- Losing weight: Excess weight puts additional pressure on your bladder.
- Changing your diet: Caffeine, carbonation (sodas) and alcohol may worsen symptoms.
- Quitting smoking: Smoking is responsible for making many health problems, including incontinence, worse.
- Fixing problems with #2: Constipation can also make incontinence worse. Add fiber to your diet and rethink your bathroom habits if you suffer from constipation.