What You Should Know About Postpartum Incontinence (Hint: It's Normal)

If you experience some urinary leakage when you laugh, sneeze, or jump after you give birth, you are not alone. In fact, postpartum urinary incontinence is pretty common, affecting about up to 50% of all women

After you give birth, your life changes in many ways, some permanently and some temporarily. One thing that changes is your pelvic region. For one thing, you actually learn to think about your pelvic floor — whereas before giving birth, you probably never thought about it at all.  

What is your pelvic floor?

Your pelvic floor is the group of muscles that hold your pelvic organs, including your bladder, uterus, and rectum. When your uterus expands during pregnancy to make room for your baby, this expansion can put pressure on your pelvic floor. 

If you experience incontinence during pregnancy, defined as the involuntary release of urine, you’re more likely to experience this type of embarrassing leakage or urine dribbling postpartum. But, don’t be alarmed. Most of the time, your pelvic region eventually returns to its pre-pregnancy state.  

Why is postpartum incontinence so common?

As babies grow in utero, they often put pressure on your pelvic organs to make room for their growing bodies — which can then weaken your pelvic muscles. Weakened pelvic muscles don’t work as well as strong muscles, resulting bladder control problems, especially when you laugh or sneeze. 

Sometimes, after you give birth, your muscles heal shortly afterward, and your bladder problems are resolved. Other times, the birthing process itself, especially if it’s a vaginal birth, wreak havoc on your pelvic region. Labor can weaken pelvic floor muscles and also damage nerves that control the bladder.  

Most bladder problems dissipate after your body heals, and your pelvic muscles return to their pre-pregnancy strength. But, one-third to one-half of women have still have bladder issues after a year.  

What can I do about postpartum incontinence?

If your incontinence is causing problems or does not go away a few months after giving birth, Dr. Marsha K. Howerton can help. She performs a thorough evaluation before recommending the best treatment option for your specific issues. 

Usually, she starts with conservative treatment options that you can do at home. These options include Kegel exercises, dietary changes, bladder training, and other healthy lifestyle recommendations. If conservative steps don’t work, Dr. Howerton has special expertise in minimally invasive and surgical options to help improve your bladder control and your quality of life.  

If you’re experiencing bothersome urinary leaks during pregnancy or afterward, call obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Howerton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can also make an appointment online

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