6 Ways To Successfully Manage Postpartum Incontinence

This piece has been medically reviewed by Aleece Fosnight, MPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF, Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology.

After giving birth, there is so much focus on your newborn baby. Even before giving birth, there is very little awareness about just how much your body will go through post-birth. For example, you may need to wear postpartum incontinence supplies to control bladder leaks and uterine bleeding as your body heals from the trauma of childbirth. If you develop postpartum incontinence, try not to worry. As your body recovers from delivery, there are several ways to easily manage and treat your urinary incontinence.

What Causes Postpartum Incontinence?

The miracle of childbirth can do some strange things to your body in order to make room for and support your growing baby. Your organs adjust and more pressure is placed on your bladder and pelvic floor muscles, which can cause them to weaken throughout pregnancy.

As your body prepares for birth, your hip joints loosen, your cervix stretches, and as your baby passes through the vaginal canal your pelvic muscles, bones, and ligaments also stretch. Although many say it takes six weeks to recover after giving birth, it can actually take 6-12 months for your body to completely heal after having a baby.

After giving birth, your body continues to experience hormonal changes that affect your bladder and as your uterus contracts back to its original size, it can place extra pressure on your bladder.

All of this pressure and stretching means your weakened pelvic muscles may be unable to contract in order to hold or stop urine leakage. You may experience leaks when you lift something heavy, sneeze, laugh, or exercise. Postpartum incontinence is also known as stress urinary incontinence, as leakage occurs when the bladder is stressed. It is actually very common, affecting about 7 million new moms in the US. Even low-stress deliveries and c-sections (cesarean sections) can lead to incontinence in up to 50% of women. But remember, just because something is common does not mean it is normal.

6 Ways to Manage Postpartum Incontinence

There are a number of stress incontinence treatment options that can help you regain control of your bladder, but in some cases, it may take up to six months or longer to fully recover. However, you don’t have to spend that entire time worrying about bladder leakage.

1. Bladder Control Pads

Bladder control pads are discreet incontinence supplies that are used to absorb losses of urine. Instead of having to wear bulky briefs, you can use smaller bladder control pads, like poise pads to quickly absorb leaks. Bladder control pads are very similar to menstrual pads, making them easy to change and carry with you.

You also don’t have to worry about the cost of these items, as they may be covered through insurance. Aeroflow Urology is able to provide support for all of your continence care needs. Simply use our quick qualification form to get started, and we will take care of the rest, so you can relax as incontinence products are shipped to your home on a monthly basis.

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2. Kegel Exercises

When you are physically able, practicing kegel exercises on a daily basis can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. You can perform pelvic floor exercises by squeezing your pelvic muscles and holding for about 10 seconds. You can even get a personal trainer for your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor physical therapists have specialty training on pelvic floor disorders, especially prenatal and postpartum. If you are interested in pelvic floor muscle training with a pelvic floor physical therapist, the APTA is a great resource.

3. Lifestyle Changes

There are many small changes that you can make to your daily routine to relieve unwanted stress on the bladder.

Clean up your diet. Eat healthy fruits and vegetables that are full of fiber. Avoid triggers such as coffee, caffeine, spicy foods, and refined sugar.

Stay hydrated. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to avoid urinary tract infections (UTIs) and dehydration.

Keep weight within a healthy normal. We aren’t suggesting you lose all of your baby weight right after you give birth, but trying to return to a healthy weight, whatever that may look like for you, is another way to relieve pressure on the bladder.

Limit abdominal pressure. By limiting pressure on your abdomen, you can also limit the pressure that is on your bladder. This can decrease the amount of “stress” on the bladder which can help prevent leakage.

Avoid nicotine. Nicotine directly affects the muscles and lining of the bladder, and chronic coughing from smoking cigarettes can cause increased stress on the bladder and can prolong the prevalence of incontinence symptoms.

4. Timed Voiding

Typically, using the restroom every 2 to 3 hours is considered normal. If you have to go frequently, you can try bladder training techniques to gain back proper function of your bladder. Use the bathroom every 30 minutes to an hour then try to extend the amount of time between urination each day. Emptying your bladder prior to activities, including exercise, can help limit leakage, as well.

5. See Your Healthcare Provider

If you have incontinence symptoms, speak with your doctor to rule out more serious conditions and causes to help develop an effective treatment plan. For example, you may have urge incontinence or overactive bladder, where you fail to fully void your urine, instead of stress incontinence. Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist can also be beneficial to regaining strength in your pelvic floor muscles.

6. Medication and Devices

You may need temporary assistance from incontinence medication or support devices to help relax your bladder and control urine flow. Some devices such as a pessary can be placed in the vagina to support the bladder and rectum and help the bladder fully empty. This device can also be used to treat pelvic organ prolapse. Other devices like bladder slings may also be surgically inserted to treat incontinence symptoms. In the meantime, try not to worry about a little loss of urine. With protective incontinence products, you can continue to enjoy bonding with your baby. After you’ve fully recovered from giving birth, speak with your healthcare provider about your urinary incontinence and begin taking the steps to regain control of your bladder.

About the Author

Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF is a Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology and a board-certified physician assistant specializing in sexual medicine, women’s health, and urology. In 2019, she opened up her own private practice, the Fosnight Center for Sexual Health, and implemented the sexual health grand rounds curriculum at her local hospital and residency program.

Aleece is also the founder of the Fosnight Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and training of professionals in the sexual health field and providing funding for access to healthcare services in her local community.

Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.