The postpartum period is a time of change and challenges, like nighttime feedings, lack of sleep, and what seems like a mountain of dirty diapers. But while those stresses can more or less be anticipated, another postpartum challenge takes many new moms by surprise: urinary incontinence.
In fact, urinary incontinence during the first few months after childbirth is common; research suggests it affects about a third of women. Despite that, many women are embarrassed to talk about their symptoms or reluctant to seek help.
At OB/GYN Associates of Conroe, Richard Roberts, MD, helps women in Conroe, Texas, find solutions for urinary incontinence after childbirth and during pregnancy, too. In this post, we explain why incontinence happens and how it’s treated, so you can feel more confident about seeking treatment.
Being pregnant puts a lot of strain on your body, but probably the most strain is exerted on your belly and your pelvic floor muscles — the muscles that support your uterus and bladder.
As the baby grows, the weight put on these muscles increases. At the same time, hormonal fluctuations cause the muscles to become stretchier in order to accommodate your growing belly and prepare your body for birth. As the baby moves through the birth canal during delivery, the force and strain on the muscles increase dramatically.
The strain and stretching decrease the natural support for your bladder, which makes you more likely to leak urine when you cough, sneeze, or even laugh. This type of urinary incontinence is called stress incontinence, and it typically lasts for several weeks after pregnancy, until your body has a chance to recover.
Urinary incontinence can affect any new mom, but some risk factors increase the chance that it will occur. These include:
Vaginal delivery is also a major risk factor for postpartum incontinence. However, that doesn’t mean you should opt for a cesarean section simply to reduce your risk of incontinence.
While incontinence often resolves as your body heals in the months after giving birth, some women continue to experience urine leakage long after giving birth. In fact, a recent study found that as many as 30% of women had stress or urge incontinence a year after delivery.
Urinary incontinence also becomes more common as a woman ages — especially during menopause. During menopause, changes in estrogen combined with years of wear-and-tear on your pelvic floor muscles make stress incontinence more likely.
Some menopausal women may develop urge incontinence, experiencing frequent, almost irresistible urges to urinate. Each type of incontinence can occur on its own or together in what’s called mixed urinary incontinence.
Before prescribing any treatment for your incontinence symptoms, Dr. Roberts performs a physical exam, sometimes including exams and testing focused on your bladder function. He reviews your medical history, along with any medication you’re taking, to understand all the factors that could be playing a role.
Based on your specific needs, your treatment could include:
And of course, Dr. Roberts will also review lifestyle changes you can make that could help, too, like decreasing caffeine and alcohol intake.
Urinary incontinence is a common problem, especially for women, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The good news is, there are treatments that can help.
If you’re dealing with incontinence issues and you’re ready to find a solution that works, call 936-756-7788 or book an appointment online with the team at OB/GYN Associates of Conroe today.