One minute you’re chuckling at a co-worker’s hilarious story, and the next minute—oops. You just peed yourself. Not so funny, is it?
Urinary incontinence is an unspoken epidemic. It’s an embarrassing symptom, yet quite common among pregnant women. A Norwegian study found that pregnancy more than doubles the prevalence of bladder leakage.
Sneezing, coughing, and even laughing can cause expecting mothers to wet themselves. Only a small amount of urine escapes, but if it happens often, it’s enough to make you feel uncomfortable, and a little embarrassed.
Pregnancy incontinence is an awkward symptom, but you need to share this information with your maternity team. Your doctor and your midwife need to know about your physical changes, even seemingly small details. It’s important that they have all of your information to evaluate if it’s a typical pregnancy symptom or a serious issue.
Incontinence isn’t always preventable, but during pregnancy, there are 7 ways to avoid accidental bladder leakage.
7 Go to the Bathroom Often
If you’re pregnant, you’re probably already making frequent trips to the bathroom. Your expanding uterus and the baby’s weight add constant pressure to your bladder, and the urethra, causing urinary stress. This is why pregnant women feel like they have to pee even if they just went to the bathroom.
But, experts suggest that you routinely visit the washroom, even before you have the urge to urinate. By the time you feel the need to pee, your bladder is almost full. This is when the slightest pressure can force an involuntary flow of urine. Leaking a few droplets because of a sneeze or a cough is called stress incontinence.
So, just in case, make a trip to the bathroom at set times. Also, sit forward while voiding your bladder to empty it completely. These tips can actually train your bladder.
Scheduling your bathroom breaks may seem like an inconvenience but it’s better to release your urine in the bathroom than have a leak in your underwear.
6 Avoid Lifting
Bladder leakage can happen for many reasons. As stated, laughing, coughing, and sneezing can stress the bladder to force out urine. Walking, running, and exercising can also put pressure down below. Medical experts recommend that you avoid heavy objects because lifting weights can weaken pelvic floor muscles.
Generally, the guidelines around pregnant women lifting objects are based on common sense. Individual circumstances and the recommendation of your health care provider should determine how much you should safely lift during pregnancy.
If you have no complications and you are not considered high-risk, it is generally safe to lift up to 25 lbs. Still, not all pregnant women are created equal. Moving around a piano is an obvious no-no, but picking up a small child should not cause a problem, as long as it doesn’t cause excess strain.
Just be aware that lifting an object can result in bladder leakage. If you have to pick something up, contract your pelvic muscles before and during the lift.
5 Alter Your Diet
There are certain foods that can aggravate the bladder, and make leakage worse. For instance, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and spicy foods can irritate the bladder, so avoid these foods to reduce your chance of incontinence.
Specific beverages can also stimulate your bladder, raising the volume of urine. These drinks are diuretics; substances that make you pee more often. Caffeine is a major culprit, with coffee doing the most damage. Avoid tea and switch to decaffeinated coffee if you are experiencing mild incontinence. Fizzy drinks, green tea, and hot chocolate are also bladder irritants to avoid.
To curb urinary incontinence, stick to drinking decaffeinated teas, herbal tea (except green tea,) and diluted fruit juices.
4 Drink More Water
This tip may seem counterproductive, but drinking plenty of water is an important part of avoiding bladder leakage.
Drinking water will not lead to urinary incontinence. In fact, just the opposite is true. Avoiding water will reduce the capacity of your bladder. Plus, your body will still make urine if you don’t drink water, but your urine will become concentrated. This condition will irritate your bladder even more.
Aim to drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water every day. If you experience overnight bladder leakage, curb your water intake at 4 pm. Also, you may need to check with your specialist if you have medical conditions that require you to limit your fluid intake.
3 Treat Constipation Promptly
75% of pregnant women experience constipation, which can be caused by hormones and the extra iron in prenatal vitamins. When you’re constipated, you tend to push with force to release hard stools. This action can weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor, and result in the loss of bladder control.
In addition, feeling constipated can have an effect on bladder leakage because the rectum is close to the bladder. The rectum and the bladder use many of the same nerve endings. Compacted stools press on these nerves, causing them to become overactive. Such conditions can increase the frequency of urination.
To relieve constipation during pregnancy, increase the fiber in your diet. Expecting mothers should aim to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day. Increasing your fiber is not as hard as it may seem. Replace your side dishes with vegetables. Or, chop up bananas, strawberries, and apples to make a fruit salad for breakfast. These dietary changes should keep you regular, and relieve the pressure of constipation.
2 Wear Pads
Some pregnant women experience bladder control problems throughout their pregnancy and even after the baby is born. If you have tried self-help fixes but still experience urinary incontinence, speak with your doctor or midwife. There may be another reason for your bladder leakage other than pregnancy. Other causes of urinary incontinence are:
- Urinary tract or bladder infections
- Rectum and bladder nerve damage
- Hormone changes
Until the causes are uncovered, wear liners, pads, or disposable underwear to soak up accidental dribbles. These products absorb moisture and catch leaks before they reach your clothes.
1 Perform Pelvic Floor Exercises
If urine is leaking out before your bathroom break, your bladder muscles may be too weak to hold back urine.
Researchers at Cardiff and Vale University discovered that pelvic exercises have successfully reversed incontinence during pregnancy. These exercises can take a little time to perfect because the muscles are located within the body.
Some people perform this exercise incorrectly by squeezing the vagina as tight as possible. To isolate the pelvic muscles, follow this technique:
- Lie face up on your bed.
- Squeeze the back passage as if you are trying to stop passing gas.
- At the same time, pretend you are stopping urination in midstream.
- Think about lifting the muscles upward and forward into the vagina.
- Hold the contraction for five seconds, and then release.
- Repeat this exercise five times in a row. Perform five sets three times a day.
If you are performing this exercise correctly, your belly button should not move. You should also be able to speak and breathe normally while contracting these muscles.
If you’re still experiencing bladder during pregnancy, ask your doctor to evaluate what is behind your incontinence.