Postpartum incontinence is a phrase which is not widely known or spoken of. However, it is estimated that a shocking one-third of all women in the postpartum period will suffer from incontinence. Despite incontinence being something that many new mothers suffer from, it is often still thought of as a taboo subject.
Many new mothers feel that there is a lack of people willing to talk openly about incontinence after childbirth, or simply a lack of resources they can turn to for guidance. Read on to find out about the essential things you need to know about dealing with incontinence after childbirth.
What causes Postpartum Incontinence?
Weak pelvic floor muscles are the main cause of postpartum incontinence. Pelvic floor muscles span the bottom of your pelvis, working to support your uterus and help control the bladder and bowel. As you would expect, the increasing weight of your baby, followed by the pressure of giving birth weakens these muscles. As your uterus shrinks in size in the weeks immediately following delivery, it sits directly on the bladder, compressing it and making it more difficult for these muscles to function. If you have had an epidural or a spinal block, the nerves responsible for the feeling in and around your bladder may feel numb. This insertion of the catheter during an epidural, in particular, can greatly weaken your bladder. Soon after giving birth, it may be difficult to tell when you need to go to the toilet, and many women find they are left with little or no control over their bladder.
Scott Farrell, chief of gynaecology at IWK Health Centre, Halifax reports that “one in three women experience urinary incontinence and three-quarters of the time it’s giving birth that’s to blame.” Farrell reports that after delivery, “30 to 40 percent of women experience some degree of leaking”. It is reported that women older than 35 and obese women are at greater risk for pre, and postnatal leaks.
Interestingly, each subsequent pregnancy makes a permanent problem more likely. If it took a long time to deliver your baby and you needed forceps to help, it may mean that you are much more likely to develop incontinence.
Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy can also be harmful to your body and bladder. Women older than 35 and obese women are at greater risk of pre, and postnatal leaks.
What can you do to help regain your bladder control?
Many women who develop incontinence during pregnancy find that it goes away soon after delivery. For some women, the leaking stops completely or becomes much less frequent within a few weeks of giving birth, whilst for others, it can persist in varying degrees for several months or often longer. We have therefore put together useful tips on how to reduce your incontinence faster if you are a new mother suffering from postpartum incontinence.
Exercise your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is the most effective way to treat incontinence. The most common method of doing this is through exercising your pelvic floor muscles. Regular pelvic floor muscle training will help to get the strength back in your muscles and reduce the symptoms of incontinence after childbirth.
Women’s health physical therapist, Cindi A. Prentiss explains, “The muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor may become overstretched and weak during childbirth.” During delivery, the perineum may feel numb with bruising and soreness, especially if you’ve had a large baby, tore the perineum or had an episiotomy.” Prentiss claims that a weakened pelvic floor can lead to “incontinence or sagging of the bladder and uterus onto the pelvic muscles.”
Ensure that you ask your GP for a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist. If you suffer from incontinence, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that you should receive at least three months of supervised pelvic floor muscle training as a first-line treatment of the condition.
How to Exercise your Pelvic Muscles
Before you begin to try any Kegel exercises, you need to identify your pelvic muscles. In order to do this, you need to become aware of the muscles you use to stop urinating.
To exercise these muscles, try squeezing these muscles for up to 4 seconds, then relax the muscles for 4 seconds. Please be aware that your stomach and thigh muscles should not weaken when you do this.
Gradually increase the length of time you are able to squeeze until you see a noticeable improvement in the strength of your muscles.
In order for this method to be effective, it is recommended that you repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times per session.
If you are able to fit these exercises into your daily routine, try and do this exercise 3 times daily.
Pay attention to keeping your weight gain moderate
Another culprit for exerting extra pressure on the bladder that can lead to problems in the postpartum period is weight gain. Weight gain after childbirth is inevitable and whilst women are in need of consuming more calories after childbirth, keeping weight-gain moderate may help control incontinence during the postpartum period.
To ensure you are aware of the healthy amount of weight gain after pregnancy, you can ask your healthcare provider for their advice on this. Overeating after childbirth is tempting and a common practice for women. However, you need to remember that those extra pounds will weigh down on your bladder and will only make your incontinence more extreme.
Choose the correct incontinence product for you
During your postpartum period, you should not try to use products such as sanitary towels to absorb urine leakage. Instead, ensure you look for a suitable incontinence product that is specially designed to manage urine leakage.
When you are looking for the ideal incontinence product to help manage your condition, you need to consider the available options. When choosing the perfect product, you have the choice between the following options:
– Incontinence Pads
– Net and Lycra Pants
– Pull Up Pants
– Belted Briefs
Disposable pads are one of the most common ways of managing urinal incontinence. They can be worn with your own underwear and are designed to deliver maximum discretion and comfort. Pads for incontinence are available in a range of shapes and sizes, and it is essential that you choose the correct type and size of incontinence pads to suit your needs. Certain pads are more suited for small leaks whereas others are suitable for more severe incontinence issues.
Incontinence pads are available in the options of all-in-one pads, straight and mini pads, and shaped pads.
You can search through our range of incontinence pads here
Net and Lycra Pants offer a snug and secure fit. The pads are designed as a fixing mechanism to hold incontinence pads in place. You have the choice of these pants in a range of hip sizes, and the pants combine a pad with a belt or strap.
If you are looking to purchase net and lycra pants, you have the choice of choosing stretch pants, pull up pants, close-fitting pants or pants with legs.
You can search through our range of Net and Lycra Pants here
Pull up pants obtain maximum discretion due to their elasticated waist and cotton-feel back sheet. Pull Up Pants can be handled like normal underwear, encouraging independence and comfort. Many women choose this option due to the discrete fit of the pants and the sense of freedom and control the pants provide you with.
Have a look at our range of Pull Up Pants here
Belted briefs are incontinence products which allow the belt to be fitted comfortably around the waist before fitting the pad, meaning you can ensure you have maximum comfort and an accurate fit whilst wearing your incontinence pad.
You can visit our range of belted briefs here.
Additionally, you should remember that it is vital to maintain hydrated and avoid constipation by giving some thought to the food and liquid you consume. You should aim to drink at least eight glasses of fluids every day, as cutting back on water to control incontinence can only make you more dehydrated. Try to eat high-fibre foods, such as wholegrain rice, and ensure you avoid foods with excess sugar and artificial flavours.