Pregnancy can be overwhelming. In between practicing breathing exercises, getting registered at Target, and marking name books comes lots of changes.
And while we mamas love to share stories and tips about getting ready for baby, we aren’t very good at having real talk about changes to us. Specifically, physical changes to our bodies.
Oh, yeah. We’re going there.
So, your pea in the pod has brought on another kind of pee? Good news – you’re not the only one! Below, you’ll find an in-depth and honest guide to bladder leaks (i.e. incontinence) while you’re pregnant and after you’ve given birth.
You’re In Good Company
One of the most common things we hear from new and expecting mamas is, “This is so embarrassing. Am I weird? Is this happening to anyone else?” New moms also share that they usually find out that bladder leaks (also known as urinary incontinence) during pregnancy are common – but only after they’ve given birth. Funny how that works.
Feeling embarrassed and alone is totally understandable, but you’re not alone!
Fun fact: One study found that 71% of expecting mothers have bladder leakage during pregnancy. Put another way, picture yourself sitting with 3 other pregnant women. Of the four of you, three will be experiencing unexpected spritz and sprinkles. You’re not weird; leaks in pregnant women are totally normal.
How Do Those Leaks Sneak Out?
Leaks tend to happen during pregnancy because of stress around the pelvic floor.
The term “pelvic floor” can be confusing. Your pelvic floor isn’t actually a “floor.” Rather, it’s a group of muscles that surround and support your bladder and rectum. The muscles in your pelvic floor are what control when your pee flows freely and when it doesn’t.
Picture your bladder as a water balloon, but a balloon that isn’t tied and the untied end is facing down. Now picture your hands wrapped around the water balloon, fingers holding it closed. Following? Your hands act as a sort of pelvic floor. To keep the water in, the muscles in your hand hold the opening shut. When your hands relax, water spills out. Voila, now you understand the pelvic floor.
A leaky bladder is common in pregnancy because of changes to your pelvic floor. A weakened pelvic floor allows leaks to sneak out!
Here are a few specific ways pregnancy causes those unexpected dribbles:
Baby On The Bladder
Baby on the mind, baby on the bladder. As baby grows, its weight rests on your bladder, applying extra pressure when you cough, sneeze or laugh – and also when you walk, run or exercise. If you leak when this happens, that’s called “stress incontinence.” It’s like baby is using your bladder as a trampoline – as if the kicks in the belly weren’t enough!
The Hormone Roller Coaster
Remember that emotional roller coaster we talked about earlier? Those same hormones causing changes in your emotions can also weaken your pelvic floor. This can happen in your early pregnancy, leading to leaks even before the bump arrives.
Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are common in pregnancy and can lead to bladder leaks, especially if they aren’t treated. Why? Well, hormones (again!) for one. Plus, extra weight on bladder sometimes means it doesn’t empty fully which can lead to infection.
Amniotic Fluid or Urine?
Having liquid unexpectedly arrive can make an expecting mom nervous, because it’s hard to tell whether it’s amniotic fluid or urine.
When amniotic fluid leaks it “gushes,” and smaller intermittent leaks are likely urine. But, according to Healthline, your best bet is to ask your doctor to test the fluid
If you’re in a situation where you’re not sure, please call or visit your doctor ASAP. The internet can only help so much!
How Can I Stop Leaks During Pregnancy?
Okay, so we’ve covered why bladder leaks occur, and that many pregnant women experience them.
So, now, the next question is: how can you prevent accidental leaks?
These are one of the best ways to prevent leaks because they strengthen your pelvic floor. You’ve probably heard of Kegels but if you’re not sure if you’re doing them correctly, check out this guide to Kegels.
Schedule Bathroom Breaks
Modern life is hectic — even more so with a bun in the oven — and it’s easy to forget to check in with our bodies. Set a reminder on your phone to remind you to use the restroom, before it becomes an emergency! If you’re pregnant, leaks are more likely to happen when your bladder is full. You can even put your bladder on a schedule with something called bladder training. Who knew?
Lay Off The Caffeine
You’ve probably already cut back on caffeine a little. But if you haven’t cut it out completely, you may want to consider ordering decaf instead because caffeine can increase your trips to the bathroom.
There’s no way to totally stop bladder leaks while you’re pregnant. If you’re experiencing regular bladder leaks, it may be time to stop using a regular pantyliner and have bladder leak pads delivered to your door.
Will My Bladder Ever Return To Normal?
Good question! You may well have a leaky bladder in the weeks after giving birth. Good thing that new baby is so cute, huh? But you may also find that bladder leaks go away as your body recovers from pregnancy (though remember, it took 9 months for your body to get that way so it takes time for it to fully recover). If that’s you, count yourself lucky!
For some women, bladder leaks might get better but never fully go away after childbirth. Multiple pregnancies, giving birth to a large baby, use of forceps to help your baby enter the world, and having an episiotomy (surgical cut made to vagina during birth) can all lead to persistent leaks.
If the problem persists, be sure to bring it up with your OB/GYN or GP at your post-delivery checkup.
Are you a mom? What strategies helped you manage bladder leaks while pregnant? Share your experiences in the comments! And, if you’re ready to explore another way of managing bladder leaks, check out a subscription box for bladder leak products from Lily Bird.