Keeping Your Bladder Healthy During and Post PregnancyLisanne Wellness Center
Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy as it prepares to give birth. As your belly grows, you might notice that you’re making more trips to the bathroom. Many pregnant women experience bladder issues throughout their pregnancy and after they’ve given birth.
Hormone changes and added pressure on your bladder during pregnancy can lead to stress incontinence. During urination, the muscles surrounding the urethra (known as the pelvic floor muscles) relax, which allows urine to flow from the bladder. When urination is finished, those muscles contract and prevent urine from continuing to flow. With stress incontinence, urine can leak when you laugh, sneeze, cough, exercise, etc. because the muscles are weakened. Even though the majority of pregnant women experience some urinary incontinence during pregnancy and/or postpartum, it doesn’t have to interfere with your quality of life.
Try these five tips for a healthy bladder during and immediately after pregnancy:
- Pelvic Floor Training
If you’re pregnant or have recently given birth, you’ve likely heard of Kegel exercises. These are exercises intended to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, urethra, small intestine, and rectum and control urine flow. Studies have shown that pelvic floor strengthening can significantly reduce urinary incontinence episodes during and post pregnancy.
You can do pelvic floor training on your own or consult a specialist such as a physiotherapist. To strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, the first thing you need to do is find the right muscles. The easiest way to do this is to stop urination midstream. The muscles you tighten to do this are the ones you want to target with exercises. One benefit of these exercises is that you can do them in any position and at any time, but you may find it easiest to do them lying down initially.
Once you’ve found the correct muscles, tighten and hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds then relax for 10 seconds. Focus on tightening the pelvic floor muscles only and avoid tightening nearby muscles like the buttocks, abdomen or thighs. Also, make sure not to hold your breath during the contraction. Work your way up to three sets of ten repetitions each day.
- Timed Voiding
Schedule urination at regular intervals. This means you will try to empty your bladder at certain times, not only when there is an urge. This can prevent the bladder from overfilling and sending urgent messages to empty. Start by keeping a diary to record the times you urinate or leak urine. You should start to notice a pattern, and you can create your scheduled bathroom breaks around those times.
- Bladder Training
This involves gradually increasing the time between urination by waiting a bit longer each time you go. If you start off going to the bathroom every hour, gradually change your schedule to every 90 minutes, then every two hours, etc. until you reach around three or four hours between visits. By using this technique, you’ll learn to resist the initial urge and wait until the scheduled time.
Bladder training can help give you increased control over the urge to urinate, increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold and generally make things more convenient by not having to rush off to the bathroom all the time! Keep track of your progress and note any leaks so you can make modifications to your plan.
- Weight Management
If you are overweight or gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, you are more likely to experience urinary incontinence. Studies have shown that weight loss can improve incontinence. Excess body weight, especially around the abdomen, may increase pressure on the bladder and urethra. Obesity may also lead to chronic pelvic muscle strain, which can interfere with nerve function and weaken muscles.
Stay active during your pregnancy and stick to a healthy diet comprised of lots of whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole wheat grains, healthy fats and lean protein. Avoid processed foods, which are typically full of salt, Trans fats, and added sugars and are linked to weight gain. If you are unsure whether you can safely continue any pre-pregnancy activities or exercises, make sure to check with your doctor. Current guidelines for adult physical activity recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week plus two strength-training sessions. For help losing weight, you can also focus on improving your diet with an Individual Nutrition Consultation, or on getting more active with our 28-Day Transformation.
- Medical Intervention
Depending on the severity of your incontinence and the impact it has on your quality of life, you may benefit from medical intervention such as prescription medications or, in cases of severe incontinence, surgery. Don’t be too embarrassed to bring this issue to your doctors attention, especially if it continues well after you give birth. If you’re concerned that this may be a problem for you, schedule a call with one of our Functional Medicine Specialists today.
At Lisanne Wellness Center, we understand that being pregnant isn’t always roses and sunshine. If you’d like any advice or help in getting through the less exciting parts of your pregnancy, feel free to contact us anytime at 713-461-WELL.