When discussing pregnancy and giving birth, a few topics remain taboo. Postpartum anxiety, for example, is still a topic that women are suffering from it find hard to discuss. The less we discuss things in the open, the higher we put the barrier to talk it openly. Another topic that seems to be taboo seems to be urinary incontinence during pregnancy and after giving birth.

Incontinence is simply the ‘involuntary loss or urine,’ most commonly when doing some form of physical exercise or when coughing, laughing, or sneezing. This form is called stress urinary incontinence. And if that sounds familiar and you have always felt awkward discussing it, rest assured, almost half of all women experience this type of incontinence after childbirth.

For some women urinary incontinence is just slightly bothersome, for other it can be completely debilitating. The idea of public embarrassment might cause so much anxiety that some avoid going out in public altogether or avoid friends and family. It’s important to understand that it can be a significant issue and that, especially during pregnancy, this is more rule than the exception.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

The main culprit is usually weaker pelvic floor muscles which span the bottom of your pelvis. These muscles help control your bladder and bowel. During pregnancy, they are getting the additional task of supporting the increasing weight of your baby. All this can lead to the muscles being wholly overworked and unable to keep your bladder in its original place. As the muscles weaken, your bladder drops and the muscles that close off the urethra can no longer shut properly. This, in turn, means that your bladder functions on a hair trigger and will ‘leak’ during moments of physical stress.

Not every pregnancy will lead to urinary incontinence, and pelvic floor exercises can help stave off issues for some women, but others will experience problems regardless. Also, how you give birth and the intensity of your labor can lead to incontinence if you did not experience any issues during the pregnancy itself. It can take a few weeks for the muscles to regain their strength, but for some, it can be months or even turn into a long-term problem.

It is essential that if you fall in either of the latter categories and still experience issues six to eight weeks after birth that you talk about it with a health professional. Urinary incontinence can be treated, even during pregnancy. Organisations such as Advanced Urology can help you get the right treatment.

As with postpartum anxiety, urinary incontinence is an issue that should not be a taboo. Some studies have found that one in three women are too embarrassed to talk about urinary incontinence with their partner, almost one in two were uncomfortable speaking about it with friends. The most worrying statistic is that some studies found that two in five women were too embarrassed to talk to a health professional about urinary incontinence. Lifting the taboo is essential to ensure that women feel comfortable talking about it and to seek treatment when required.

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