After you’ve had a baby, there are the things you know to expect and watch out for: difficulty breastfeeding, no sleep, crazy hormones, signs of depression. But then there might be the things that come out of nowhere that you’re not prepared for. Things like peeing your pants all of a sudden or an inability to make it to the bathroom. The things that make you go, On top of everything else—this?
But as unpleasant as postpartum urinary incontinence (UI) may seem, it’s actually really, really common. And the good news is that if you know what’s happening, there are ways to manage it.
Here are a few fast facts about postpartum incontinence to help you stay in control of your own body.
Postpartum leaks can happen just about any time, thanks to your pelvic floor
The muscles holding up and surrounding your vagina, bladder, urethra, and rectum are collectively called the pelvic floor, and they’re usually shut tight around the urethra until your bladder tells them it’s time to relax to release urine. But pregnancy hormones loosen those muscles (to make childbirth easier), and the stress of pushing a baby out doesn’t help either. So when the muscles can’t hold the urethra closed, pressure on the bladder can send leaks out at unwanted times. As you become more active post-baby, if you’re able, it’s a good idea to seek out a pelvic floor therapist or a trainer who can advise on the best way to rebuild that pelvic floor.
About half of moms experience postpartum incontinence
About half of new moms are still experiencing urinary incontinence a year after giving birth. You’re also more likely to experience postpartum UI if you gave birth vaginally or if you experienced UI. Being a woman is fun, right? But seriously: This is all to say that you’re definitely not alone—so don’t be afraid to confide in other moms and talk about it! We’re all in this together.
Postpartum Incontinence Usually Goes Away on Its Own
For many women, postpartum UI goes away a few months after giving birth and the body pretty much returns to its pre-baby state. But for other women, it can stick around for years. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to predict which way it’ll land, but you can definitely talk to your doctor about it to figure out a management and treatment plan to make it easier on you.
Kegels can help!
A couple of sets of Kegels every day can really go a long way (start out with three sets—morning, noon, and night). These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor so it goes back to keeping the urethra shut. The best part is that they can be done pretty much anywhere and anytime! Not sure how to do a Kegel? Here’s how:
- Sit or lie down with an empty bladder
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 3–5 seconds
- Relax the muscles for 3–5 seconds
- Repeat 10 times
Avoiding water doesn’t help
It might feel natural to try drinking less water to keep yourself from having to go to the bathroom. But dehydration creates its own problems, and staying hydrated is particularly important after pregnancy. So keep drinking those eight glasses—though it might help to spread them out throughout the day.