After giving birth, your vaginal canal and pelvic floor muscles get pretty beat up. Urinary leaking or incontinence, painful abrasions, and constipation, and other pelvic floor damage are all a big factor in developing postpartum depression.
According to the Journal of Prenatal Medicine, organ prolapse, urinary urgency, stool incontinence, painful hemorrhoids, and lacerations, are all common injuries that women face after pregnancy.
One in 7 women are affected by postpartum depression according to JAMA Psychiatry, and these painful, sometimes embarrassing post-birth injuries can definitely contribute to new mothers developing it.
Giving birth is extremely tough on your body. Many women are prepared for discomfort while carrying their child, but the post-pregnancy recovery can be just as frustrating!
As a new mom, it’s easy to feel anxious and alone after the birth of your baby. There is so much to do. You aren’t getting enough sleep and your hormones are still trying to level out.
At OB-GYN Women’s Center at Lakewood Ranch, we’re passionate about taking care of women during all stages of pregnancy – even afterwards.
We’ve put together this guide on what to expect of post-pregnancy urinary incontinence, and how you can treat it.
Urinary leakage, or “the spritz” as it’s sometimes called in commercials for certain hygienic pads, is what happens when a little bit of urine involuntarily spurts out.
Pregnancy can change the urinary control abilities for one third to one half of women who have given birth, so if you’re struggling with urine leaking then you’re definitely not alone.
There are two types of urinary incontinence: stress and urge.
If you tend to leak urine when you laugh, sneeze, cough, run, jump, or lift something, then that’s stress incontinence.
When you’re pregnant your body makes special birth hormones that make your tissues and joints more elastic for delivery. That, combined with the weight of a baby, weakens the strength of your pelvic floor muscles allowing urine to leak.
The cause of urge incontinence is an overactive bladder. If you find yourself rushing to the bathroom several times per hour even though your bladder is nearly empty, then you’re experiencing urge incontinence.
There are a few methods of treatment for urinary incontinence, from simple exercises to a minimally invasive elective surgery.
The most common way to treat urinary incontinence is with a type of stretching called Kegel exercises.
Your pelvic floor is a muscle hammock that hangs against the bottom of the vagina, bladder, uterus, and rectum.
When you pee, the pelvic floor muscles relax to allow urine to flow. Tightening the muscle closes the lower urethra, and keeps any remaining urine in the bladder.
The weight of a baby, combined with the effects of pregnancy hormones, can stretch out this muscle – which makes it looser, and not as good at stopping your pee!
When you do a kegel exercise, you basically “flex” your pelvic floor muscle. Just like doing an arm curl, flexing your pelvic floor muscle will help you make it stronger.
How to Do Kegel Exercises
You can identify which muscles are your pelvic floor muscles by attempting to stop your urination flow mid-stream. Don’t continue practicing kegels by stopping your stream, though.
Weirdly enough, doing kegels while peeing can train your bladder not to empty fully – which puts you at risk of UTIs.
When you’ve identified which muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, continue your practice on an empty bladder.
On your first day, you’ll want to try to “flex” your muscle for 5 seconds at a time. Then relax for 5 seconds. This is 1 “rep”, try to do 5 reps on your first day.
Be careful not to flex the wrong muscles! If you tighten your abs, thighs, or butt you’re not doing the kegel exercises properly.
You should not hold your breath either. While performing the exercises, you should be able to breathe freely.
As you get better at it, you’ll want to eventually aim for 10 reps of 10-second holds/10-second breaks 3 times per day according to the National Association for Continence.
But quality is more important than quantity.
The most important thing is to perform the kegel exercises properly, and be sure that you’re flexing the right muscles.
There are a variety of weights, balls, wands and other devices that you can use to give yourself something to put resistance against. You can also try inserting a finger and tensing around it if you’re still not sure whether or not you’re performing the exercises properly.
According to the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, pelvic floor training has been proven to treat postpartum urinary incontinence directly after birth, and the benefits continue one year afterwards too!
If you have severe bladder leakage, you may not be able to resolve it on your own with kegels – although you could still greatly improve your situation through the exercises.
For women with more persistent leakage, you can be fitted for something called a pessary.
A pessary is a small silicone ring that you place inside the vagina in the morning, and remove it at night. It acts as a “speed bump” for the urethra.
Some women only use their pessaries during physical activity like running or playing tennis.
There is also a small surgery with a 90% success rate for truly burdened women who feel they need to wear a pad every day, at all times.
It’s called “bladder sling” surgery. You should only do it if you’re not planning on having any more children, because carrying a child will effectively undo the surgery.
It’s a minimally invasive surgery where the surgeon inserts a U-shaped mesh sling that permanently supports the urethra.
There is another option for women who are struggling with postpartum incontinence. Some OB-GYNs, like the Women’s Center of Lakewood Ranch, offer more sophisticated in-office pelvic floor treatment.
If you’re wondering how you’d ever pay for treatment like that, don’t worry. All insurance companies can and do pay for this service, so don’t feel shy about seeking treatment!
If annoying symptoms like pelvic pain, or urinary incontinence are preventing you from enjoying time with your new baby then you should absolutely consider seeking in-office pelvic floor treatment.
At the Women’s Center of Lakewood Ranch, we offer an extensive 8 week program to help you deal with urinary incontinence and pelvic pain.
You’ll have a session once per week with a registered nurse who comes to our office to guide you through treatment.
Your sessions will be done in our luxurious spa suite area for your privacy. It’s in the back of our offices out of the way, so you can relax and go through your treatment worry-free.
Stop struggling with urinary leakage. If you’re experiencing a lot of pelvic pain, or struggling to heal after your birth then contact us, or call us at (941) 254-2717. We’re here for you. Our team helps women struggling to recover from their births every day, and we can help you too.