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Urinary Incontinence Update

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Urinary incontinence during pregnancy

Urinary incontinence is a symptom that is usually related to a physical disorder. It is the uncontrollable and involuntary loss of urine, which occurs during the day or night. Who is at risk? Are there any treatments? We take a look at urinary incontinence.

Table of contents

What is urinary incontinence?

Usually, the urine your kidneys produce goes into a reservoir called the bladder. A circular muscle called a sphincter keeps the bladder closed. When your bladder is full, the sphincter is stimulated, and you feel the urge to urinate. The sphincter opens, and the urine flows out through a channel called the urethra. Sometimes this muscle doesn’t work correctly, and uncontrolled urine leakage can occur, for example, during exercise.

The different forms of urinary incontinence

For young mothers, this is called stress incontinence. Leakage can occur when coughing or sneezing, but also when laughing. It’s often triggered by physical activity or sport. For example, if you run or climb stairs. Sometimes a change in position, such as standing up suddenly, can trigger leakage. In all these situations, bladder weakness happens without you feeling the need to urinate.

Sometimes urine leakage is preceded by a frequent, urgent, and overwhelming urge to urinate. You can’t hold it in. This is called urge incontinence or bladder incontinence. If the two forms of incontinence are combined, it is called mixed incontinence.

Pregnancy and childbirth can lead to urinary incontinence

Hormones are to blame: there are many factors involved, but the main one is pregnancy. The hormonal changes during this period affect the tone of the small muscles surrounding the urethra. As a result, the urethra does not contract sufficiently, and leakage occurs. In addition, when standing, the volume of the uterus “crushes” the bladder and amplifies the problem.

Childbirth is also to blame. It can cause damage to the muscles around the urethra and the perineum, leading to a relaxation of the pelvic floor. You are more at risk if you gave birth to a large baby, a tear in the perineum, or the doctor used forceps.

Other factors predispose expectant or new mothers to incontinence: overweight, constipation, a chronic cough, or certain sports that put too much pressure on the abdomen (aerobics, tennis, jogging). If you are prone to urinary tract infections, you are also more at risk. The same goes for mothers who smoke.

Can urinary incontinence be prevented?

There are no “miracle” solutions: the best thing to do is limit drinks that excite the bladder, such as tea or coffee, as much as possible. And continue to hydrate correctly with 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day. Delegate the carrying of the water pack or basket to your companion when you return from the market. Walk, swim, but stop doing bouncy sports or sit-ups that put too much pressure on the pelvic floor.

Pregnant bladder weakness and incontinence: who to talk to?

The occasional leakage during pregnancy is often harmless and usually goes away after the birth. Sometimes the problem persists after the baby is born. Do not hesitate to talk about it very quickly as soon as you arrive at the maternity hospital to the midwives or the obstetrician. Also, take advantage of the postnatal visit to bring up the problem. After a short assessment and a few questions about the extent of the leaks, the professional you see will suggest appropriate solutions.

Treatments for urinary incontinence

The good news is that there is a solution for every case. The first step is to retrain the perineum. This set of muscles and ligaments forms a hammock that supports the bladder, uterus, and rectum. If it is too loose, it needs to be re-muscled by appropriate exercises. This is the purpose of the sessions that will be prescribed to you. In general, a dozen sessions are sufficient.

Note that even if some women have more resistant perineum than others, it is strongly recommended that all new mothers undergo perineal rehabilitation 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth. You can then resume sports activities (on the advice of your doctor) and strengthen your muscles. A word of warning: at the beginning, you should avoid violent sports such as running or jumping rope.

Your perineum is even more fragile if:

  • Your baby weighs more than 3.7 kg at birth
  • His head circumference exceeds 35 cm
  • You had to use forceps for delivery
  • It is not the first Pregnancy

If despite everything, the leaks persist, your gynecologist can suggest a simple surgical procedure. This consists of placing a small polypropylene band (TVT) under the urethra to support it. The results are rapid. In cases of urge incontinence, a specific treatment is needed to regulate the anarchic contractions of the bladder.


Urinary incontinence is a complaint of any involuntary flow of urine.

Hormonal changes in pregnancy might also cause your pelvic floor muscles to become more relaxed. This might occasionally cause you to leak urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or exercise. Squeezing your pelvic floor when you sense this is going to happen will assist.

women with strong pelvic floor muscles are less prone to leak urine during pregnancy. But don’t beat yourself if you didn’t do your Kegels; there’s a lot you can’t control during pregnancy, and your bladder could be one of those things.

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