Incontinence Awareness Month – Part 1
Incontinence During and After Pregnancy
Although Incontinence is a subject either kept hush-hush or mentioned with an embarrassed little chuckle, there is actually quite a bit of information that is available out there. Unfortunately, there are so many misconstrued beliefs about incontinence that we are all under the impression that leaks are just a part of life and just have to be dealt with. This is simply not true!
For this blog entry we are going to focus on Incontinence during and after pregnancy. For more general information, you can read our November newsletter.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body does many strange and wonderful things. It also does some not so wonderful things. In preparation for birth, the mother’s body releases a hormone called relaxin. While this helps to relax the pelvic floor muscles to allow for the baby to move through the birth canal, it can also cause incontinence. This occurs because in the end, the pelvic floor is a muscle and thus has the very important job of supporting your pelvic organs, including your bladder. In 65% of pregnant woman, it results in a loss of bladder control. It is also important to note that it can take up to six weeks after the birth of the baby for the relaxin levels to dissipate.
When the mother gives birth, her pelvic organs and muscles are under an intense amount of stress and pressure. Some women’s bodies handle it better than others. The fact is that with increased knowledge as to proper nutrition during pregnancy comes bigger babies. These bigger babies’ heads can cause tearing or overstretching of the muscles, ligaments, connective tissues, and nerve supply. This damage to the pelvic floor can cause incontinence. If the physician uses forceps or suction, or if the baby weighs more than 8lbs 13.1oz, there is an increased chance of developing incontinence after birth.
Shortly after the birth of the baby, a mother’s body is very tender and therefore, psychologically, she may avoid tightening the pelvic floor muscles because it is painful or uncomfortable. As the tightening of these muscles controls urine flow, this may also lead to incontinence. Comparatively, a rapid or traumatic birth can cause temporary damage to the nerves in the pelvic floor. This can cause incontinence as well because the mother’s body cannot tell when the bladder is full.
Another hormone that can cause problems is estrogen. A breastfeeding mother can have a low estrogen level. As this hormone is required for certain nerve junctions to function properly, incontinence can occur.
Studies have found that 60% of women who have four or more babies have stress incontinence. Each vaginal delivery can potentially damage to the pelvic floor muscles.
So what do we learn from this blog entry? We are not alone in incontinence. It is a common symptom of a bigger problem, but it is not just a normal part of life. You don’t have to tolerate it just because you’re embarrassed. Incontinence is a very treatable condition, so why put up with it if you don’t have to. Mother’s already go through a lot to see their precious bundles brought safely into the world; they don’t need the added hassle of leaks.
“I Laughed So Hard I Peed My Pants” by Kelli Berzuk
“Women’s Waterworks, Curing Continence” by Dr. Pauline Chiarelli