Finding out you’re pregnant can be some of the most exciting news you’ll ever get, and it will send you into a flurry of activity getting ready for the arrival of your little one. From choosing an OB/GYN to picking out prenatal vitamins, you’ll spend a lot of time getting your body, and your baby, ready for birth. However, one thing many expectant moms forget to prepare for is pregnancy incontinence – until you’re suddenly a little damp after a particularly strong sneeze. At least 42% of moms-to-be experience leaks during pregnancy and 38% still have bladder problems 8 weeks after delivery, which is why it’s so important to prevent leaks before they start. Here are our top tips:
During pregnancy hormones relax your ligaments so the baby can grow, which puts more weight on the bladder and urethra. Those loose ligaments and extra pounds can also cause strain on your pelvic floor, which is the group of muscles that support your pelvic organs and help control your bladder. Kegel exercises help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and can help you build better continence – so making them a part of your daily routine is crucial to a healthy pregnancy and a lifetime of intimate health. You can use weighted Kegel exercisers both before pregnancy to help you build strength, and again starting 6 weeks after delivery to help you recover your strength and tone. However, during pregnancy it’s best to consult your doctor about the best way to do Kegels for you.
Healthy Weight Gain
Weight is a contributing factor to incontinence in general, but during pregnancy women with a normal BMI will gain an average of 35 additional pounds. The weight can add strain to your pelvic floor muscles and put more pressure on your bladder and urethra, which might lead to more leaks. So it it’s important to be aware of your weight and work with your doctor to keep your weight gain healthy for you and your baby.
Low Impact Exercise
Staying fit is an important part of a healthy pregnancy, both in terms of your weight and overall wellbeing. However, to protect your pelvic floor and keep your pants dry it’s best to start looking into exercise that won’t bounce or jiggle your belly too much – like yoga or swimming. This will help lessen the strain on your pelvic floor and help you maintain continence while your baby grows.
Lifting anything heavy can also increase pressure in your abdomen and can weaken your pelvic floor, so avoid it when you can. If you do pick anything up be sure to maintain good posture (keep the natural inward curve of your lower back) and engage your pelvic floor muscles just before and while you lift. Remember, don’t hold your breath! That puts even more downward pressure on your pelvic floor.
A Balanced Diet
Certain foods and drinks, like those containing caffeine, can exacerbate incontinence symptoms by irritating your bladder, but you might be surprised at some of the other foods that can increase leaks. Avoiding constipation can also help stop leaks before they happen, a full bowel can put pressure on the bladder and straining on the toilet can weaken your pelvic floor.Talk to your doctor at your next appointment to see if there are changes you can make in your diet.
It’s important to start thinking about your continence early – even before you start planning your first pregnancy. Protecting and strengthening your pelvic floor is important not only for a healthy pregnancy, but also for good intimate health for a lifetime – it’s never too late to get started!