The Truth About Bladder Control After Childbirth
Photo credit: David Freund/Photodisc/Getty Images
Ah, the joy of childbirth. Cuddling with your newborn as he gazes into your eyes, he coos and you giggle so hard a little pee comes out.
Stress incontinence may happen after giving birth, and it's nothing to be embarrassed about.
Why does incontinence happen after childbirth?
Michael Ingber, M.D., from The Center for Specialized Women's Health, explains, "In general, pregnancy itself and the delivery process can cause strain and damage to not only the pelvic muscles which support all of the pelvic organs — bladder, bowel, vagina, uterus — but also the nerves that supply the urethral sphincter muscle. When these are damaged, stress urinary incontinence — leakage with coughing, sneezing, laughing — can occur."
Because new moms don't have enough to deal with after having a baby, right? Don't worry. There are plenty of steps you can take to deal with incontinence after childbirth.
Meet your new best friend, the Kegel exercise
Don't wait until after giving birth to start Kegel exercises. The more you can strengthen your pelvic muscles in advance, the better. The easiest way to do Kegels is to tighten your muscles as if you're trying to hold back from urinating, then slowly release until those muscles are completely relaxed.
During labor, it's beneficial to try upright positions like walking, squatting or sitting on a birth ball. Try pushing in various positions, too, instead of laying on your back.
Kegels are awesome after giving birth, too. While it's likely your doctor or midwife won't want you to exercise much for the first month or so after childbirth, Kegel exercises can typically be started right away.
What if Kegels don't work?
Ingber says, "In some women, exercises alone do not provide enough relief, and a minor surgical procedure may be necessary in order to correct this problem."
Bottom line? If you experience incontinence after childbirth, don't be embarrassed, be proactive — talk to your doctor about options. You can't control sneezing or laughter, but you can control your bladder.