A Guide to Urinary Stress Incontinence After Childbirth
Experiencing involuntary leaking of urine after giving birth? This condition may be more common than you think.
Pregnancy and motherhood change your body in so many ways! One change that many new mothers experience, but few talk about is urinary stress incontinence — the loss of urine caused by increased pressure on the bladder. But the postpartum syndrome is more common than you think, affecting 70 percent of women in varying degrees within the first six months of giving birth.
If you are having problems with your bladder after pregnancy, here’s what you need to know — from its possible causes to treatment options.
What Causes Urinary Stress Incontinence?
Urinary stress incontinence usually begins during pregnancy. An expanding uterus and foetus may exert extra pressure on your bladder, which controls the flow of urine, and your pelvic floor muscles, leading to involuntary urine leakage when you cough, laugh or sneeze.
This condition typically continues after pregnancy because childbirth stretches and weakens the pelvic floor muscles. When this happens, your pelvic muscles may not provide enough support to your bladder leading to loss of bladder control.
Other reasons for bladder control problems after childbirth may also be caused by:
– Damage to the pelvic nerves during a long or laborious natural delivery
– Injury to the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles brought on by forceps delivery
“The more children you have and the longer your deliveries, the higher your chances of experiencing urinary stress disorder,” says A/Prof Fong Yoke Fai, gynaecologist at Astra Laparoscopic & Robotic Centre for Women and Fertility. “The same goes for assisted delivery methods, such as forceps and vacuum deliveries.”
How to Treat Urinary Stress Incontinence?
This postpartum syndrome is usually temporary and will likely disappear after six weeks. To speed up this process, you may want to try some behavioural techniques, like timed voiding and bladder training.
Time voiding requires you to empty your bladder on a regular basis. This reduces your chances of experiencing sudden urinary urges, brought on by an overactive bladder. To ensure that you keep to this routine, you may consider wearing a timed voiding watch that can be programmed to vibrate at regular time intervals, reminding you to make a trip to the bathroom.
Conversely, bladder training is about conditioning your bladder control by stretching the intervals between your bathroom visits. You could start by visiting the bathroom once every hour before extending it to once every two hours and so forth. Another method of bladder training involves postponing your visit to the bathroom by 15 minutes when you feel the urge to urine. However, make sure to practise this at home to avoid any urinary leaks in public spaces.
Another common method that could help to reduce urinary stress incontinence are Kegel exercises. These exercises help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which helps support the bladder neck. Do 10 Kegel exercises in the morning, afternoon and at night anytime and anywhere. You may see results in four to six weeks.
“Pelvic floor exercises will help to improve urinary stress incontinence, but there are other treatment options if the condition continues to persist six weeks after you have given birth. One of the newer technologies offers women the option to improve incontinence non-invasively through a simple vaginal laser procedure. This helps to stimulate collagen production and repair underneath the vagina mucosa. This typically takes 3 sessions, with each session being done in the gynaecologist’s clinic in a short time. The procedure has no downtime and is pain-free” says A/Prof Fong.
When Should You See A Doctor About Bladder Control Problems?
Chat with your obstetrician-gynaecologist (OB-GYN) if you continue experiencing bladder control problems after six weeks from the date of your delivery. Involuntary urinary leakage may also indicate a more serious, underlying medical condition.
In these cases, the OB-GYN may start you on hormonal therapy or perform surgery to prevent it from becoming a long-term condition.
A/Prof Fong Yoke Fai is the medical director of Astra Laparoscopic & Robotic Centre for Women and Fertility, located at Paragon Medical, #16-07/08. He is highly recognised in the management of menstrual-related problems, such as endometriosis and fibroids.
Reference Pages about Pregnancy
- Smart Mum Network: #1 Most trusted site pregnancy site in Singapore and Asia
- Ask Worlds 1st Pregnancy Chatbot using Artificial Intelligence
- Ministry of Health
- SMG Womens Health
- The Obstetrics & Gynaecology Centre
- Astra Laparoscopic & Robotic Centre For Women and Fertility
- Astra Women’s Specialist
- FDA Pregnancy
- CDC Pregnancy