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Advice on Living with Incontinence

Managing Pregnancy Incontinence

Pregnancy brings so much excitement and happiness, but it can also bring new challenges like frequent urination and incontinence. The additional weight of pregnancy strains the pelvic floor muscle, which is why many women experience stress incontinence, particularly towards the end of gestation.

Published by Jane Granger
Managing Pregnancy Incontinence

Pregnancy, Childbirth & Incontinence

Dealing with a rapidly changing body can be challenging enough, so it’s important to know how to deal with the symptoms of incontinence if they arise. Managing the condition and staying focused on your health is key. Pregnancy incontinence can be separated into different categories: stress incontinence, overactive bladder, a combination of both, or the more temporary, transient incontinence.

With a caesarean delivery, the muscle may already have endured stretching from the pressure during pregnancy which in turn can cause incontinence, and without exercise, it doesn’t always spring back.

A vaginal birth can put immense strain on the pelvic floor muscle, often causing tissue and nerve damage. Much of this should improve naturally over a few months but pelvic floor muscle exercises are highly recommended to help strengthen the muscle and improve bladder control.

Subsequent pregnancies and births can increase the likelihood of experiencing incontinence as it consolidates and exacerbates the issue further since the muscle has already been stretched and weakened. A regular regime of exercises between and after pregnancies can dramatically improve the strength of the pelvic floor and its ability to maintain pregnancy incontinence.

Causes and types of pregnancy incontinence

Not all conditions are the same. Pregnancy incontinence can be divided into a few different categories – all with their own causes.



Stress incontinence

It is caused by the increased pressure on the bladder. As the uterus expands it causes extra physical pressure on the bladder, the pressure on the bladder sphincter and pelvic floor then results in leakage – perhaps after a cough, a sneeze, or a good laugh. The good news is that this kind of downward pressure, or ‘stress’ can become much less of an issue, or even completely restored, with the right Kegel/pelvic floor exercises.

Overactive bladder (OAB)

OAB is classified as more than eight toilet breaks a day. While frequent urination can be the earliest sign of pregnancy, the uncontrollable bladder spasms that can follow may create difficulty. Your baby could be pushing down on your bladder, causing muscle weakness and mixed nerve signals that cause unexpected leakage. As medication may be required, it’s best to consult your health care professional when aiming to improve an overactive bladder.

Transient incontinence

It is a more temporary condition that’s caused by a short-lived medical condition, or perhaps a side effect from the treatment of a medical condition. Both women and men can experience transient incontinence and there are a range of causes – with the issue experienced by people who may have an irritated or inflamed bladder, severe constipation, a urethra or vagina recovering from surgery, or people using medication such as a diuretic or sleeping pill. If you think you’re suffering transient incontinence, it’s best to seek an individual health assessment.

Treatments of Pregnancy Incontinence

Before resorting to medication there are a range of practical strategies to try bringing into your routine to manage stress incontinence and overactive bladder – just remember to consult your doctor, midwife, nutritionist or even a specialised personal trainer.


Try pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises

Commonly referred to as Kegel exercises, pelvis floor exercises are safe and can also help during labour. A weakened pelvic floor is one of the most common causes of urinary incontinence in women. Simple strengthening exercises can help restore control, and best of all, they’re safe to do and can also help during labour. Find the right exercise routine for you here.

Our My Pelvic Floor Fitness app is also a great resource to get your routine going and keep you motivate – download it here.


Keep a schedule of your toilet breaks

A diary of your bladder activity will be incredibly handy when chatting with a specialist to help manage an overactive bladder.


Avoid certain foods and drinks

We are what we eat – perhaps unfortunately! If you have an overactive bladder, try eliminating certain foods and drinks as the toxins, fluid and other waste collected by your bladder can affect your incontinence. Not drinking too much after dinner can also help.

Additionally, eating a high-fibre diet can help to avoid constipation and further bladder pressure – see what CSIRO say here.

Leakage can also continue after the birth of your baby. For many women, this postpartum incontinence will stop after around 12 months.

While pregnancy incontinence can be a challenge, and may become increasingly difficult as pregnancy advances, it’s reassuring to know that it won’t affect the well-being of your baby.

Take advantage of TENA’s free samples to find which product and level of absorbency that best suits your requirements. You can order up to three free samples at a time. For social situations, consider something from the TENA Pants range. Designed to look and feel just like regular underwear, they’re very absorbent, keeping you dry and comfortable. They’re also close fitting, therefore discreet under clothing.

Libra’s maternity products may also be incredibly helpful during your pregnancy, along with these pregnancy resources from Libra.

And again, if you are suffering from any symptoms associated with incontinence during and post your pregnancy, you must see your doctor.

Asaleo Care Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.