Pregnancy-related urinary incontinence is a common problem for expecting mothers. A survey of 1,900 women in Britain revealed that 34 percent, or one out of three women experienced urinary incontinence during pregnancy. The same number also reported that the problem continued one year on post-pregnancy.
Many women who develop continence issues following childbirth are suffering in silence because of embarrassment over the condition.
Pregnancy-related incontinence can be treated through exercises and advice that improve the strength and function of your pelvic floor muscles. This provides a safe, gentle, practical approach and solution that helps avoids invasive surgery or risky medications that could carry side effects.
How can physiotherapy help?
The most common and main cause of pregnancy-related urinary incontinence is weak pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles span the bottom of your pelvis, supporting the uterus and helping to control both your bladder and bowels. The increasing weight of your baby, followed by the delivery, may stretch and weaken these muscles, with the proper function of them failing to return without treatment.
Even if you don’t experience urinary incontinence, some countries have introduced guidelines that recommend women complete regular pelvic floor exercises in their first and subsequent pregnancies to reduce the risk of the condition developing. The guidelines in some countries also recommend that if you do suffer with incontinence, that you should receive at least three months of supervised pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation as the first action step in treatment. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will recommend daily repetitions of pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises
Your pelvic health physiotherapist can teach you correct use of your pelvic floor muscles in bowel and bladder control. She can also teach you how to strengthen them with the appropriate exercises. In addition, your therapist may discuss how your diet may be affecting your bowel function as well as discuss the importance of water intake and hydration for bladder and bowel health. Lastly, your physiotherapist may discuss possible lifestyle changes which can help you manage the problem
How can I help myself?
The best way to help yourself is to make your pelvic floor muscles stronger by exercising them. Follow up with the care recommended by your physiotherapist and perform the exercises at home on your own in between appointments.
Drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet with a proper amount of fibre, and avoiding too much alcohol and caffeine can also help. This will all help your bladder and bowels work properly. Aim for 3 litres of water daily.
Try to prepare for coughing, sneezing or any exertion such as getting up out of a chair or attempting to lift a heavy object by tightening your pelvic floor muscles first.
When you finish using the toilet, engage your pelvic floor muscles to lift your pelvic floor and empty the bladder completely.