This is such an exciting time in your life and you have so many decisions ahead of you.
In order to cope with the life-changing event of child birth, women’s bodies go through so many changes during and post pregnancy.
One of the changes that is often not talked about, but can have an impact on your confidence, is the effect that pregnancy can have on your bladder and bowel.
* NHS Choices UK: www.nhs.uk
** Alison Bourne, Babycentre’s physiotherapist, www.babycentre.co.uk
|Is it common to experience leakage during and post pregnancy?
Yes, being pregnant and giving birth increases the risk of urinary incontinence in women (NHS UK). When you become pregnant your pelvic floor muscle tissues begin to stretch due to a change in hormone levels. Pelvic floor exercises are recommended to try to prevent long-term bladder leakage.
|Why can’t I laugh, run or sneeze whilst being pregnant without experiencing some form of bladder leakage?
The pressure around your bladder increases whilst being pregnant due to the additional weight associated with carrying an unborn baby. This can put pressure on your pelvic floor support and can cause stress urinary incontinence. If you have been doing your pelvic floor exercises and are still experiencing bladder leakage then it is advised that you speak with your Doctor, Midwife or Health Visitor for professional advice.
A light urine containment product, which has an adhesive strip, to enable the pad to be secure into your own underwear, may be a good option if you experience bladder leakage.
|If I drink less water will this lower the risk of bladder leakage?
No, it is important to keep hydrated because cutting back on water could make you more vulnerable to urinary tract infections or constipation.
Chief Medical Officer’s for the NHS advise that not drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the safest option, and also to limit the amount of caffeine consumed. Carbonated drinks, alcohol, fruit juices and anything that contains caffeine can irritate the bladder and cause you to need to “go” more often or make it harder to control bladder leakage.
|Is it just bladder leakage I need to be aware of in regards to my toileting habits during and post-pregnancy?
Unfortunately, this is not the case! As all of your muscles can become quite relaxed due to hormone changes in your body, it is quite normal to also become constipated during and postpregnancy. Eating foods that are high in fibre, such as wholemeal breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables and pulses such as beans and lentils, and drinking plenty of water can help to relieve constipation.
If you have any concerns regarding your bladder or bowel as a result of pregnancy we recommend that you seek professional medical advice.
|Is it normal to urinate more frequently during pregnancy?
Yes, it is perfectly normal to urinate more frequently during pregnancy. This can begin fairly early on due to an increase in hormones, and sometimes continues throughout pregnancy. During the later stages, it is usually your baby’s head pressing on your bladder which causes the increase in pressure, resulting in the need to urinate more often.
If you are pregnant or planning to conceive, then it is recommended that you start doing pelvic floor exercises straight away. When done correctly, these exercises will help to lower your risk of experiencing incontinence after having your baby (NHS UK).
For more information on how to do pelvic floor exercises please contact your Health Visitor, Midwife or GP.
Light bladder leakage:
Also known as Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles, where urine may leak from the bladder when coughing, sneezing, carrying out exercise, or even laughing.
This type of leakage is more common in women than in men as it is linked to childbirth and pregnancy, but can also be linked to obesity, constipation and hormonal changes. In most cases, this type of incontinence can be cured or significantly improved with professional medical guidance.
Around two in every five women experience constipation during their pregnancy, mostly during the early stages due to a change in hormone levels*. Signs of constipation include; passing stools that are smaller, harder, more difficult to pass and opening the bowels less frequently than usual. It is important to remember that normal bowel habits vary from person to person.
Please contact your GP or Midwife for ways to treat constipation, that are safe for you and your baby.
Continence issues are not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. Therefore, with any type of continence issue, an assessment of bladder and/or bowel needs should be performed by a healthcare professional to establish an accurate diagnosis so that a treatment or management plan can be implemented.
The information in this leaflet has been compiled with the input of the Abena Nurse Advisor team, and is endorsed by the ACA (Association for Continence Advice), in order to inform you of some of the changes which could potentially happen to your body during and after pregnancy.