What Women Should Know About Pregnancy Incontinence

Everything Women Need to Know About Pregnancy Incontinence

Having a baby is a major life change — not only for your family or day-to-day life, but of course for your body, too. Mothers will experience weight gain, changes to their body shape, and hormonal swings when bringing a new child into the world. Another factor some mothers don’t consider is pregnancy incontinence. Pregnancy incontinence is the accidental loss or leakage of urine that occurs while pregnant, and it affects roughly 40% to over half of pregnant women, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Rest assured, pregnancy incontinence is very normal, temporary, and yes, it is manageable. 

Types of Incontinence Often Experienced During Pregnancy 

There are different types of urinary incontinence that women experience while carrying a child:

Stress Urinary Incontinence 

Stress urinary incontinence is by far the most common among pregnant women, (that affects roughly 75% of pregnant women), and occurs when pressure is put on the bladder due to the baby’s positioning and is triggered by sudden movements such as laughing, sneezing, and jumping up and down. This pressurizes the bladder sphincter, the muscular valve at the bottom of the bladder that controls the flow of urine. And because the muscles and tissue walls are weakened due to changes in progesterone during pregnancy, it’s much easier for accidents and leaks to occur. 

Urgency Urinary Incontinence 

Urgency urinary incontinence, a far less common form of incontinence during pregnancy, is another name for “overactive bladder.” It’s that “gotta go” feeling that persists day and night, which is more prevalent after giving birth. 

Mixed Urinary Incontinence 

Mixed urinary incontinence involves experiencing both urgency and stress urinary incontinence. This condition is due to pressure put on the bladder from the baby in the second and third trimesters, as well as changes in progesterone levels that weaken the tissues and muscles around the pelvic floor. It’s completely normal to experience more than one type of incontinence and to have it consistently while pregnant and during the postpartum period. 

What Causes Pregnancy-Related Incontinence?

As your body goes through dramatic changes in order to carry a child, it makes sense that you’ll experience less-than-desirable symptoms — pregnancy incontinence being one of them. There are several different factors that cause accidents and leakage while pregnant:

The Uterus Expands, Putting Pressure On the Bladder

A baby takes up a lot of room, and especially during the second and third trimesters. Your bladder will almost feel “squished” as it’s located in front of the uterus. As your baby grows, you’ll have less room in your bladder for urine, thus having to go more frequently or experiencing leaks. 

Hormonal Changes Weaken the Pelvic Floor Muscles 

When you become pregnant, progesterone levels continue to rise, which can cause a loosening of your ligaments and joints in order for your body to deliver your baby more easily. Because of this, the pelvic muscles that help hold in urine become far more loose and thin, which creates more frequent accidents and leaks. 

Previous Childbirths Can Stretch and Weaken the Pelvic Floor Muscles

After birth, postpartum incontinence can also become an issue because the vaginal muscles are stretched, which can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, causing postpartum incontinence. If you’ve had children before, you may have a higher likelihood of pregnancy incontinence. Childbirth can also result in pelvic muscle and nerve injury, which leads to further incontinence issues. 

Having Conditions That Affect Your Bladder Pre-Pregnancy 

If you’ve had a history of chronic UTIs, are overweight or obese (some studies have found that being obese can double your chances of experiencing urinary incontinence), or are age 30 or over while pregnant, you’ll see a higher risk of experiencing pregnancy incontinence. 

When Does Urinary Incontinence Start in Pregnancy? 

Urinary incontinence is most common during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, as the baby gets larger and puts more pressure (resulting in less room) on the bladder. Most women find incontinence issues to be slight to moderate in severity. 

Will it Go Away After Pregnancy?  

Urinary incontinence typically goes away a few weeks to months after pregnancy, but there are specific factors involved. Many women experience postpartum incontinence for about three to six weeks after the baby is born, or the pregnancy ends, yet some women may experience issues longer depending on the birth and their history. 

Sometimes, incontinence issues will improve after pregnancy, but return later. Factors that bring back urinary incontinence issues later in life are: 

  • Age (as women age and hit menopause, estrogen levels diminish, causing a thinning and loosening of bladder and pelvic floor muscles, causing incontinence issues)
  • Delivering your baby vaginally 
  • Having a hysterectomy 
  • Prolapse
  • Obesity 
  • Constipation
  • Nerve damage

Ways to Manage Pregnancy Incontinence

As the body heals post-delivery, you can help support your incontinence issues by doing gentle exercises and using incontinence products that give you confidence.

Incorporate Bladder Training

As you’re experiencing more frequent bathroom trips and leaks, you can support your body toward regularity by bladder training. First, take note of when you pee and leak. Plan bathroom breaks before “leak” times, if possible. Then, gradually extend the time between bathroom breaks. This will train your pelvic floor muscles to get better at holding urine. 

Try At-Home Pelvic Floor Exercises

Kegel exercises not only help bladder issues, but they’ll also help you better control your pelvic muscles during childbirth as well as promote tissue healing postpartum. Kegel exercises involve squeezing the muscles you’d squeeze when you’re holding in urine. It’s a simple exercise that can be repeated daily at home.

Use Pads & Incontinence Underwear Temporarily 

Wearing incontinence pads and leak-proof underwear can greatly help you stay confident and worry-free as you move through the stages of pregnancy. Here are some great products to explore: 

  • Dry Direct Overnight Bladder Control Pads: Our highest-rated pad offers maximum absorbency for extended wear up to 10 hours. Dry Direct provides ample coverage for overnight use, offering twice the absorbency of regular pads.
  • Poise Pads Maximum Absorbency: Constructed with BodyFit technology that conforms to your shape, Poise pads are both soft and flexible. They feature Absorb-Loc and Comfort-Dry technology to lock in moisture effectively, ensuring leak-free comfort.
  • Dry Direct Ultimate Underwear: The best underwear we offer, Dry Direct Ultimate Underwear, is the culmination of years of research and testing. It has 3x the absorbency of anything found in stores, resulting in fewer daily changes for your busy schedule.
  • TENA Super Plus Protective Underwear for Women: This protective undergarment from TENA looks and feels like your normal underwear but has 40% more absorbency than standard incontinence liners. They are discreet, comfortable and effective.

Make Gentle Lifestyle & Diet Shifts to Support Your Body 

  • Ditch diuretics: Swap out options like caffeinated coffee for decaf or water to stay hydrated and to help support your tissues. Avoid trigger foods like extra spicy meals.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods: Constipation during pregnancy can happen, and straining to go can increase incontinence issues. Eating whole grains, oats, avocados and fruits can help. 
  • Limit your fluid intake after dinner: Ditch the nightly tea or extra glass of water before bed. This will help reduce bathroom trips in the night. Drink most of your water and fluids earlier in the day. 
  • Stay active: Maintaining a healthy body weight during pregnancy can help reduce the added weight and pressure put on the bladder. You’ll definitely feel better, too.

Coping Strategies and Emotional Support 

It’s normal to feel frustrated, embarrassed or overwhelmed when experiencing urinary incontinence while pregnant. Enlist in a support group with other expecting mothers, have a doctor or health coach to talk to, and talk to other mothers. Know that every person is different, every pregnancy is different, and pregnancy incontinence is, of course, not meant to last forever. Supporting yourself with positivity, using the right incontinence products, and exercising will keep you feeling good despite dealing with incontinence. 

When to Seek Medical Advice About Pregnancy Incontinence

It’s important to notify your healthcare provider what’s happening regardless, but if your pregnancy incontinence is affecting the quality of your life, it’s time to seek help and have a conversation. And, if you’re experiencing incontinence after six weeks postpartum, it’s time to discuss with your doctor.

How Parentgiving Can Help 

Parentgiving offers only the best products from top-of-the-line brands to help you feel confident, supported and at ease when you’re about to bring a child into the world.  Explore our full selection of incontinence products for women to help you feel your best.