Having a baby makes a lot of things loosen up *your bladder, your jean belt, your rule about only drinking wine on the weekends*. If you’re struggling with bladder control after childbirth, keep reading for some loose-tongued chit chat about postpartum incontinence.
Bladder control isn’t a sexy topic. Let’s be real, no one wants to talk about leaks and trickles. However, we’re tackling this topic because as usual, your gal NESSA’s here to chat through all things motherhood, sexy or not. After giving birth, there’s fluid on all fronts from both mum and baby. If you’re not feeding, you’re swiping away sick, or dashing to the loo as tentatively as time will allow. Welcome to motherhood.
Why am I leaking?
Many women experience incontinence after giving birth. Childbirth wreaks havoc on your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is made up of muscles and tissues that are knitted together to support your womb, bowel and bladder - it’s a pretty important part of your anatomy. During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor stretches and weakens. This is due to hormones and of course, the extra cargo in tow. The pelvic floor has to do a lot of heavy lifting.
What’s with the leaking? Well, when your pelvic floor is weaker, it’s harder to squeeze the small muscles at the bottom of your bladder together. This means some urine might slip out without your say so. This is called stress incontinence (SI). Not the motherhood stress you envisioned, no?
Who gets stress incontinence?
Stress incontinence is pretty common amongst new mums. It affects about a third of women in the first year after giving birth. Chrissy Tiegan also confessed to needing a nappy after giving birth, so you’re in good company. You’re more likely to get stress incontinence if:
- You had a prolonged vaginal delivery, and needed to use forceps to help get the baby out.
- You had an epidural or spinal block. This may make the nerves around your bladder area feel a little numb, temporarily.
- You had a catheter inserted after birth. When this is taken out, it can be a bit trickier to control your bladder, but this should only be temporary.
- You had similar problems during pregnancy, especially during the first or second trimesters. That pelvic floor’s been through a lot, remember.
Stress incontinence can be particularly noticeable when sneezing, laughing or lifting heavy things. We think the latter gives you licence to hold your partner to ransom - do the hoovering or the sofa cushions get it, etc.
How long does stress incontinence last?
The nappy life ain’t forever! It should go away after a couple of weeks, but may last a bit longer. Some of us mums are just lucky that way, right? 🙃 If you’re still leaky 6-8 weeks after giving birth, let your health specialist know at your postpartum check.
Don’t delay seeking help if bladder weakness continues. It’s not a fun thing to live with.
Pelvic floor exercises: the key to mastering bladder control
Pelvic floor exercises (kegels) help to re-strengthen your pelvic floor, to treat incontinence and prevent it from coming back. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you’re in it for the long run, ladies.
Kegels really are a powerful way of re-strengthening your pelvic floor. They help circulate blood around your vagina area, and help you recover from bruising or swelling from childbirth. Win win.
How and when to perform pelvic floor exercises
Whenever the moment takes you. Writing a shopping list? Squeeze that floor! Bored on a Zoom call? Clench together! Pelvic floor exercises should be performed every day, three times a day. Try your hardest to stick to this, because consistency is key to regaining control. You can start doing them soon after giving birth. The sooner the better, really.
To perform pelvic floor exercises, breathe naturally, and on an exhale, pull up and in, as though you’re trying to hold in a wee. Try not to tense your stomach or bum, as you really want to focus on squeezing the right area. You should notice the slight sensation of your vagina tightening.
Try and hold the squeeze for 4 or 5 seconds. As your strength increases, you should be able to hold the squeeze for 10 seconds. Once you reach this level of expertise (kudos to you), follow this long squeeze by 10 short ones. The ultimate goal is to perform 10 long squeezes followed by 10 short ones, three times a day.
We hope that helps put your mind at ease. You don’t have to leak forever, lady. Pelvic floor exercises are proven to help reduce and prevent stress incontinence. However, if after three months of performing exercises, you don’t notice any difference, we recommend speaking to your health specialist or doctor.