Managing Urinary Incontinence as Part of Postpartum Self-Care
How do you take care of baby and also find the time to take care of your postpartum body? Your lifestyle and daily routines will have changed beyond recognition, especially if you’re a first-time mom, but this is also an opportunity to introduce some new and easy self-care habits that help your body to recover.
A good place to start is by addressing one of the main health concerns of new moms. One in three experiences incontinence due to the stress that childbirth places on the pelvic floor muscles. Ordinarily, these muscles work to support your bladder function, and once they’re weakened you’ll experience more leakage than you did before pregnancy—so here’s how to take good care of you.
Go Easy on the Exercise
Strenuous activity isn’t recommended for up to 12 weeks after giving birth. Once this time has passed, and you’re keen to get moving again, avoid jumping into a high impact routine. Activities like running will put further strain on your pelvic support system, so try exploring low-impact options like walking, swimming, or yoga. Pilates can also help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, but there’s no need to rush into a demanding Kegel exercise program.
Around a third of women actually do their Kegels incorrectly when they attempt them without instruction—plus there’s little way of knowing if they’re actually working. A pelvic floor physical therapist can create a personalized rehabilitation program for you. Alternatively, you can try the DIY option with a Kegel training device. Choose one that’s endorsed by health professionals and gives real-time feedback while you use it.
Cut the Caffeine
Caffeinated drinks can cause your body to expel more water than you’re actually taking in. They cause the bladder to fill up quickly and leak more often. Drinking more than two cups a day can, therefore, aggravate incontinence. Given time, the less caffeine you consume, the less you’ll actually need.
This seems counterintuitive when you’re sleep deprived since caffeine activates your fight or flight response, and makes you feel more alert. Yet as the effects wear off and you reach for another hit, your body doesn’t have a chance to rest or recover. This can increase feelings of fatigue as well as incontinence.
Drink More Water
Upping your daily water intake can actually help to prevent bladder leaks. If you don’t drink enough fluid to dilute your urine, the concentrated liquid will irritate your bladder. Once irritated, it becomes overactive. The more water you drink, however, the more efficient your kidney and bladder function becomes in flushing your system of the toxins that make you sleepy.
Alcohol, sugary carbonated drinks, and certain foods can also be irritants. Watch what happens after you eat citrus fruits, spicy sauces, or tomatoes.
Eat Your Fiber
Postpartum constipation is common and can last for a few weeks after birth. As your bowels fill up, they press against your bladder and exacerbate the sensation of needing to pee. If constipation becomes severe it impacts the way your pelvic support system functions. Constant straining when you go to the toilet weakens the muscles and nerves that have already been stressed by childbirth.
Eating a balanced mix of soluble and insoluble fiber can help to keep you regular. Soluble fiber absorbs water and slows down digestion to prevent diarrhea, while insoluble fiber helps food pass through the intestine at a healthy rate (to prevent constipation). You can get both from eating a combination of nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, vegetables, some fruits, oats, and whole grains.
Talk About It
New moms can feel vulnerable or embarrassed by their postpartum experience, and the belief that your body is different or broken can become a barrier to seeking help. Postpartum hormones don’t help matters. While you’re pregnant, the placenta produces progesterone levels that are much higher than those produced during your monthly cycle. Once you’ve given birth and expelled your placenta, these levels drop dramatically, which can also lower your mood.
Dealing with physical changes like incontinence can feel overwhelming when you feel low. So reach out to friends and family, and ask for support in whatever capacity you feel you need it. Invest in quality sanitary products, like Cora’s liners for bladder leakage, which give you more freedom to get out and about without worrying about leaks. Most of all, talk to other moms about their postpartum experiences since they’ll be similar to your own. Sharing what you’ve been through is an essential part of your recovery and pivotal to self-care.
Looking for ways to manage urinary incontinence? Cora’s Bladder Liners were designed by women in the know, and made to eliminate the anxiety and fear that goes along with experiencing light bladder leaks.
Author Bio Jo is a freelance writer and copywriter with qualifications in personal performance coaching, neurolinguistic programming, and yoga. She's lived her life in pursuit of freedom (mostly from the inside out), and now uses her words to help others do the same. Find her #findingfreedom on Instagram @whatjosaid or at whatjosaid.com