A mother cradling her baby while battling the effects of urinary incontinence after childbirth.

Urinary Incontinence After Childbirth

Urinary incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine due to several factors including childbirth. It is a fairly common urinary system disorder in women whether having given birth once, multiple times, or not been pregnant at all. It is also known to occur not just after giving birth, but also during pregnancy and while delivering. More importantly, the rate of urinary incontinence significantly increases as a result of having a baby. Here are the facts of the urinary incontinence after childbirth so moms can remedy the effects of this disorder and ultimately regain control.

Let’s talk about the numbers. In a study done by the University of California’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, the prevalence of urinary incontinence after childbirth is high. During the first three months after giving birth the rate is currently 33%. Also of note, those who gave birth via vaginal delivery (31%) suffer from urinary incontinence more than those who underwent a Cesarean section (15%).

What are the causes of Postpartum (after giving birth) Urinary Incontinence?

There is a so-called Incident Urinary Incontinence that can be caused by several factors such as your baby’s mode of delivery, the use of forceps during delivery, and episiotomy. As stated above, this is more common in vaginal birth than C-section. Why? In vaginal deliveries, the ligament and pelvic floor support of the urethra (where the urine passes) becomes loose. The absence of estrogen levels within the walls of the urethra is another reason for it.

What are the Types of Urinary Incontinence after giving birth?

Stress incontinence most commonly affects women who had vaginal delivery. It is the involuntary loss of urine due to a sudden increase in pressure from sneezing, coughing, laughing, or a change in position.

When the woman feels a strong urge to void followed by an involuntary release of urine, it is called Urge Incontinence. Usually when this happens, the urge is so strong that the woman urinates before she reaches a toilet.

After giving birth, the sensation for voiding can sometimes be decreased due to bladder edema caused by the pressure of childbirth. In this case, the woman would involuntarily urinate frequently in scant amount because the bladder is overfilled with urine. This is called Overflow Incontinence.

What can be done about it?

As with all cases, the treatment for UI depends on the underlying cause. Behavioral Therapy is usually the first choice in the treatment of this postpartum urinary disorder. This type of treatment may or may not be accompanied by medicine, depending on diagnosis and professional medical advice.

Types of Behavioral Therapy:

Fluid Management

One type of behavioral therapy to try is fluid management where an adequate amount of daily fluid intake (1,500 – 1,600 mL) is monitored during breakfast and dinner. This will help reduce the urgency to urinate because of concentrated (due to lack of fluid intake) urine. It is always best to be drinking more water than any other fluids. Beverages with caffeine, carbonation, and alcohol should be avoided as they are diuretics and irritate the bladder.

Pelvic Muscle Exercise

Otherwise known as Kegel exercises, Pelvic Muscle Exercise (PME) helps strengthen the muscles that are responsible to control urination. Some use a device called manometry to help women identify the target muscles. The simplest way to know is to do the same technique you use in controlling urine or flatus. Tighten those muscles for 10 seconds then release. Relax for 10 seconds then repeat. It should be done three times a day.

Voiding Frequency Techniques

In Timed Voiding, the woman should urinate before the urge to do so is recognized. Habit Training is the same as Timed Voiding, but the set intervals are more frequent. Bladder Retraining is the combination of Timed Voiding and Pelvic Muscle Exercise (PME).

Urinary Incontinence after giving birth often goes undiagnosed because women are too embarrassed to ask for medical help. Those who suffer from it commonly resort to fixing the problem themselves by going for a “band-aid cure” using sanitary pads or other such products to conceal the problem. Urinary incontinence is a reversible medical disorder, so if you are suffering from its effects please visit a doctor. Try not to self medicate and always arm yourself with as much information as you can.

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