Incontinence after Pregnancy

Women who have given birth naturally are more likely to suffer from incontinence than those who gave birth by caesarean section – particularly if they suffered from stress incontinence before or during pregnancy. Up to 30% of new mothers suffer from post-pregnancy incontinence.

Causes of Post-Pregnancy Incontinence

During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles are often stretched or injured. This means they are weaker, and potentially prone to allowing urine to leak out when the bladder is placed under extra stress – such as when laughing or coughing. There are many different reasons why someone may suffer from incontinence following childbirth – if the baby was particularly large, if forceps were used to aid in the delivery, or if the labour lasted for a long period of time. Post-pregnancy incontinence is more often observed in women who have had more than one child. In addition to this, if the mother suffered from stress incontinence prior to falling pregnant, they are more likely to suffer from it following childbirth.

Women who are obese and smokers also face increased chances of suffering post-pregnancy incontinence.

Duration of Post-Pregnancy Incontinence

Usually, women suffering from stress incontinence following pregnancy will find the symptoms disappear after a few months – although in some cases this can take longer. In such circumstances, doctors may prescribe medication, or even suggest surgery to treat the problem. However, many women will only suffer from incontinence while pregnant, or for a few weeks after giving birth.

Preventing Incontinence after Pregnancy

Doctors advise women to practice pelvic floor exercises throughout pregnancy – this will strengthen the muscles and mean they are less likely to allow leaking after childbirth. All women should be taught pelvic floor exercises during antenatal classes, and can also ask their midwife for help.

There is also some evidence that cutting down on caffeine consumption can help to prevent incontinence. Having a caesarean section will not definitely prevent post-pregnancy incontinence, but should perhaps be considered if it is likely you will develop incontinence based on previous births and your circumstances.