About 4 out of every 10 women experience incontinence during pregnancy and/or after childbirth. For this reason, all women who are expecting a child should learn about urinary incontinence after childbirth and its treatment options.
Read on to learn about why many women suffer from incontinence after giving birth and the many postpartum urinary incontinence treatment options available today.
What Causes Postpartum Incontinence?
Incontinence during pregnancy typically begins when the weight of a women's uterus and the growing baby inside of it places pressure on her pelvic floor muscles and weakens them. When pelvic floor muscles are weakened, this problem can lead to difficulty holding in urine at all times, especially when coughing, sneezing, or laughing.
The process of giving birth can then further weaken these muscles, and the vaginal childbirth process can actually tear these muscles and/or damage the nerves that control the bladder, further increasing incontinence symptoms.
Postpartum Incontinence Treatment Options
Every woman who experiences postpartum incontinence should report this problem to their doctor. While mild postpartum incontinence can often gradually diminish on its own after giving birth to a child, some women must give their body extra help during the postpartum healing period to improve their incontinence symptoms or obtain surgery to correct it.
Behavioral and Physical Therapy
There are many behavioral and physical therapy techniques that can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. One behavioral technique that can gradually help reduce urinary incontinence symptoms is bladder training. During bladder training, you simply hold your urine for about 10 minutes longer than usual when you feel the need to urinate. The act of holding your urine engages your weakened muscles to help strengthen them.
One common urinary incontinence physical therapy exercise is the Kegel. To perform a Kegel exercise, you simply contract the muscles you use to hold your urine in for several seconds, then relax them. Start with three sets of short contractions and work up to three sets of 10-second contractions each day.
When postpartum incontinence does not improve with behavioral and physical therapy alone, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct the problem(s) causing your incontinence. A surgery called a sling procedure can involve the implantation of a special mesh material underneath your urethra. This sling then helps keep your urethra shut when you are not intentionally urinating.
If your incontinence is not caused by a problem with your urethra alone, but also a problem with the muscle that connects the bladder to the urethra called the bladder neck, then your doctor may instead recommend a bladder neck suspension procedure. During this procedure, sutures are used to connect the tissue near the bladder neck to a ligament located near your pubic bone to support this muscle.
Additional surgeries that treat other causes of urinary incontinence are also available.
If you are pregnant, then you should know that many women experience postpartum urinary incontinence. If you do develop this problem after childbirth, you have many urinary incontinence treatment options.