You’ve just had your baby, and now you can’t seem to sneeze or laugh without wetting yourself. This problem, called stress incontinence, is highly common for women, especially after childbirth. When your uterus expanded during pregnancy, a lot of pressure, or stress, was put on your bladder, causing your pelvic floor muscles to weaken. Delivering the baby, itself, can also cause damage to your pelvic floor.
Many women choose to wear an incontinence pad to stay dry. If it’s bad enough, they might wear an adult brief, similar to that of their newborn baby’s diaper. Fortunately, for the sake of dignity and dry clothes, urinary incontinence after pregnancy is usually temporary. Here are three methods you can use to prevent an unwanted leak:
Kegel, kegel, kegel. You’re going to be hearing this word a lot if you’re experiencing bladder control problems. Kegel exercises target and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles through repeated contractions. To start, you need to find the right muscles. The muscles used to do kegels are the ones you use to stop your urine midstream. After you find the right muscles, squeeze them for three seconds, let go for three seconds, and squeeze again. Do this 10 times in a row, three times a day. Exercises can be done in any position; however, doing them while standing, and especially right before you sneeze or exert physical strength, is best.
Women can also use vaginal weights to help with strengthening pelvic floor muscles. Shaped like cones and varied in weights, vaginal weights are inserted into the vagina like a tampon. Once a cone is in place, you contract your pelvic floor muscles to keep the cone from falling out. As your muscles get stronger, gradually increase the weight of the cones. Again, exercises can be done while lying down or sitting, but ultimately, you want to be able to do them while moving and going about your day.
It takes time and patience before you start feeling results. Incorporate kegels into your daily routine by doing them in the morning, afternoon, and before bed. As little as 15 minutes per session can greatly improve your bladder control.
Retrain your bladder. Oftentimes, urinary leakage happens without warning. Other times, you’ll feel sudden urges. Bladder retraining can help you fight off these urges and reduce incontinence symptoms. The process involves waiting a little longer before you go to the bathroom. For example, plan to use the bathroom every hour. As you regain bladder control, go every 90 minutes. Adding 15-minute increments can increase your bladder’s capacity to hold urine and decrease the amount of bathroom breaks you take during the day. If an urge becomes too great, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, stay calm, and slowly walk to the bathroom. Rushing will only make you and your bladder more spastic.
Exercise and eat right. Staying active after pregnancy does two things: helps you regain control over your bladder and helps you lose pregnancy weight, which decreases the pressure put on your bladder. Daily exercise is a good general habit to have anyway since it decreases your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.
In addition to exercise, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and avoid constipation. Keep in mind that there are certain foods and drinks that can irritate your bladder. Irritants include: coffee, tea, spicy foods, citrus foods, alcohol, and carbonated drinks. Drinking coffee might have no effect on you, while it may cause frequent urges in someone else. To figure out which food and drink your bladder can tolerate, eliminate them from your diet and see how it affects your bladder control.
Lastly, one of the best things you can do for your bladder is to drink water and stay hydrated. You may be tempted to restrict your fluids, but in doing so, you can become dehydrated, which can aggravate the bladder.