Experiencing physical changes during pregnancy impacts all women, from weight gain to shifts in hair and skin texture. But one of the common medical conditions among pregnant women is urinary incontinence, or the leaking of urine involuntarily. Nearly 55% of women who are carrying a child experience incontinence to some degree and the impact on daily life can range from mild to severe depending on the cause. Fortunately, there are ways to treat pregnancy incontinence that are both safe and effective, but it first requires an understanding of why it happens in to begin with.

Understanding why incontinence happens

Many causes for incontinence exist, from the natural aging process to excessive pressure on the bladder. However, for most pregnant women, stress incontinence or SI is the common experience. Stress incontinence is defined by the loss of urine due to a weakened bladder, often caused by increased pressure. Because the uterus expands during pregnancy, the bladder can become overwhelmed with pressure easily, causing leaking urine. An external stressor, like a cough, sneeze, or laugh, may exacerbate the involuntary leakage, making incontinence both embarrassing and unpredictable.

Some women may also experience urinary incontinence after giving birth. These instances are typically due to damaged nerves that do not heal after childbirth or moving of the urethra and bladder during pregnancy. In some cases, pelvic floor muscles may be inadvertently cut during delivery, leaving the bladder unable to retain control whether stress is present or not.

Pregnancy incontinence and bladder issues that continue after giving birth are more likely in women who have medical conditions like diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Some prescription medications also lead to incontinence among women. Being pregnant creates a hormonal change in the body that can also be a culprit, as can a urinary tract infection that develops during pregnancy. Women may think that urinary incontinence is just a natural part of carrying a child to term, but the experience requires some medical attention as to reduce the potential for harmful, long-term issues with bladder control.

Treatment options for women

No matter the severity of urinary incontinence, there are treatment options available for women who seek out a solution to the common medical condition. Taking a non-invasive approach is highly recommended for most pregnant patients, which often begins with a focus on lifestyle changes. Being mindful of how much weight is gained during pregnancy is helpful in keeping incontinence under control, and avoiding beverages that are high in caffeine or carbonation is suggested. Staying hydrated with plain water is effective in keeping incontinence at bay for some women, but be sure to avoid drinking in the evenings if possible.

Some medical professionals also recommend light exercises for pregnant women or those who experience urinary incontinence after giving birth. The most common exercise is the Kegel – the process of squeezing the pelvic floor muscles and holding for several seconds before relaxing. This exercise is known to increase the strength of the muscles supporting the bladder, leading to less incontinence over time. Finding the pelvic floor muscles in order to contract them during Kegel exercises can be done by trying to stop urine midstream. Sets of ten should be done a few times a day, holding each contraction for five to ten seconds. Pelvic floor activators and pulsing squats are also beneficial for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles for pregnant women managing incontinence.

In more severe cases of pregnancy incontinence, most doctors are quick to recommend a more invasive treatment that involves pelvic mesh implants. A group of medical negligence experts explains that pelvic mesh implant surgery is common among women, but it places an often unnecessary level of risk on patients. Pelvic mesh can migrate to other parts of the body or protrude from the implant site, making everyday tasks and movement incredibly painful or altogether impossible. In recent months, thousands of women have brought lawsuits against the NHS and medical providers because these risks were not fully disclosed, nor were viable, no-invasive alternatives given.

Because pelvic mesh implant surgery poses so much of a risk to women, those living with urinary incontinence may opt for lifestyle changes and exercise routines to approach treatment in a more natural, effective way. Increasing the strength of the pelvic floor muscles can be done through these efforts, giving women a greater chance of living a comfortable life with fewer incontinence issues and zero risks of pelvic mesh complications.