Womens Health

Incontinence during pregnancy – causes and treating it safely

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that pregnant women will often need to urinate far more frequently than usual. However, incontinence is also a common complaint for many women, especially during pregnancy. Clearly, the development of incontinence can have severe effects on your quality of life and even mild symptoms can be incredibly inconvenient. To highlight how widespread the problem is, research claims that over half of pregnant women believe that incontinence is having a negative impact on their life on a daily basis. It is clearly a physical issue but for many pregnant women, the condition also has an emotional effect.

As with any condition, there is great variety between the types of urinary incontinence that women can experience during pregnancy. To make things worse, each type is likely to have a different causes and symptoms, which can make treatment more difficult and less successful. One of the most common varieties pregnant women suffer from is stress incontinence, which is often caused by physical pressure being placed onto the bladder, while urgency incontinence is a result of the bladder contracting, creating an immediate need to urinate. A combination of the above is known as mixed incontinence. The causes of the condition can also be a result of medication that the pregnant woman may be taking or a side effect of an infection that she may be suffering from.

So how is incontinence actually caused? Your bladder is supported by the pelvic floor which comes under severe pressure throughout your pregnancy and especially during childbirth, this strain can lead to incontinence. Stress incontinence can occur from movements including coughing or sneezing which could heap additional pressure on your bladder. Of course, the growth of your baby will also increase the strain on your bladder. The hormonal changes that women experience during pregnancy can also be a cause as the lining of the bladder and urethra are affected, which can lead to incontinence developing.

Unfortunately, women who are already suffering from certain medical conditions, including diabetes, are more at risk. If you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, are currently taking medication for anxiety, or have previously suffered from a stroke, then you are more likely to suffer from incontinence during pregnancy.

Another leading cause of incontinence is the presence of urinary tract infections and whether these have been fully treated in the past. Research estimates that around a third of women whose infections were not fully treated experience a reoccurrence of these symptoms during pregnancy. As incontinence is one of the most common symptoms of these infections, it can develop if the infection is not effectively treated.

Unfortunately, those already suffering from incontinence are likely to see the condition worsen during pregnancy. Other factors which can increase the likelihood of developing incontinence include smoking – increased coughing heaps additional pressure on your bladder – and the woman’s age as well as whether they have previously given birth.

Anyone suffering from incontinence during pregnancy will be eager to learn about the simple steps which can manage the condition. Often simple lifestyle changes, such as cutting caffeine and carbonated drinks out of your diet, are all that is needed. At the same time, increasing the amount of water you drink is a huge help as it can reduce the risk of developing urinary tract infections.

A high-fiber diet can also help to manage incontinence as this minimizes the chances of suffering from constipation, which in turn often leads to incontinence by piling pressure on your pelvic floor. Women should also look to manage their weight throughout pregnancy to avoid weight gain which increases the strain on your bladder. Introducing light exercises into your daily routine can help to strengthen your pelvic floor which can stave off the development of incontinence.

Anyone still suffering from incontinence after attempting the above dietary and health changes can consult a doctor on the other options available, including medication and in the most severe cases, surgery.

As a last resort, surgery to insert a pelvic mesh can be offered which will provide support and can help to relieve the symptoms of incontinence. This surgery comes with its own risks. In fact, it is believed that up to one in 15 women experienced complications after the procedure and required further surgery to have it removed. As a result, there have been a high number of lawsuits from patients, with over 800 women suing the NHS over the use of pelvic mesh surgery, claiming it has led to permanent pain and left them unable to walk, work or have sex.

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