Having a baby can mean lots of changes, but your ability to control urination doesn’t have to be one of them. About half of all women experience some urine leakage during pregnancy due to normal physical and hormonal changes which you can read about here. This can be frustrating and interrupt your already busy day. Not to worry – there are many ways to help your body get back in shape! Let’s talk about the ways urine can leak and how to address it.
Do you lose urine when making sudden movements like sneezing, jumping, or laughing? This is common in female athletes as well as women who are pregnant and can be reversed with practice. Here’s how in 3 steps:
- Find your pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles surrounding the urethra, vagina, and rectum; they are important in keeping you in control of toileting. You can squeeze them to hold in gas, urine, or bowel movements.
- Let’s coordinate: squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and hold while you give a gentle cough, then relax. This is called bracing your pelvic floor. For tips on how to use these muscles, read here.
- Practice bracing your pelvic floor throughout the day: when coughing, sneezing, and any other sudden movements until it becomes muscle memory. With time your body will learn to contract your pelvic floor muscles when you make sudden movements and prevent urine from leaking
Sometimes you just can’t get to the toilet quickly enough and leak on the way. This is because during pregnancy you had to toilet more often, and now your bladder is used to frequent urination. It’s time to re-train that bladder and here’s how:
- Start keeping a daily record to write down whenever you use the toilet and when you leak. This will tell you if you are urinating too often – the goal is about every 3 hours.
- Once you find out how long you can go between toilet breaks without leaking, try to increase that time slowly.
For example: if you find that you can urinate every 60 minutes without leaking, try and increase that time to 75 minutes. Once you can achieve this without leaking, increase the time to 90 minutes. Continue until you reach your goal.
- Avoid irritating your bladder. An irritated bladder can cause you to urinate or leak more frequently. You can avoid this by staying hydrated with fluids which do not contain alcohol or caffeine.
While you are re-training your post-baby body, here are some helpful tips:
- Use a pad or panty liner to absorb any leakage throughout the day.
- Avoid pushing or straining during urination and bowel movements as it puts too much pressure on the pelvic floor muscles (this may mean seeking treatment for constipation). Instead, try to relax the pelvic floor muscles when toileting.
Over time, incorporating these practices into your life can decrease or eliminate urine leakage altogether. If you aren’t seeing any changes in 6 weeks or are experiencing pelvic pain, it may be time to see a physical therapist. Physical therapists who specialize in women’s health can help coach you in these techniques. They can teach you how to use your pelvic floor muscles correctly, identify triggers for urine leakage, and develop a program designed for your specific needs. For information on when it may be time to see a medical doctor, read here.
Stay confident and know that with practice, you can retrain your body to work for you.