Sneeze Pee: The Myth of the Mom BladderMotherhood
So did you hear? According to your mom and grandma, you've just had a baby and you're not allowed to sneeze any more...
Or cough. Or do a jumping jack. Or come within ten feet of a trampoline. Why? Because...YOU WILL PEE IN YOUR PANTS!”
It's a running joke between women. “Cross your legs before you laugh or cough!” A knowing chuckle and shake of the head. It's just what we have to deal with, after having babies.
Or is it?
We're here to tell you that urinary incontinence after giving birth is not something normal and you shouldn't have to needlessly suffer. There are methods both medical and non-medical that can help you take your life back from panty liners and pads.
Prenatal and Postpartum Urinary Incontinence
According to current research, up to 50% of women may experience some form of bladder control issues during pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period. During pregnancy, especially the later months, there is naturally a great deal of pressure being placed on the bladder and the entire pelvic area. This contributes to the well-known pregnancy complaint of frequent urination—there's just not quite as much room to hold the urine as there used to be. A full bladder bearing stress from pregnancy can easily release a bit here and there.
After giving birth, whether vaginally or by cesarean section, many women continue to experience urinary incontinence for up to a year after delivery. The problem can be even more severe after a stressful vaginal delivery, especially those involving forceps, episiotomies, and other procedures which can damage muscle and nerves. We like to hope it will just go away on its own and for some women it does—but 10-20% of women are still reporting urinary incontinence that interferes with their daily lives, five years after giving birth.
How to Stop Peeing in Your Pants
Most experts recommend practicing kegel exercises to help keep your pelvic floor strong. However, we highly recommend seeing a pelvic floor therapist. This is a physical therapy professional who specializes in women's pelvic issues. They see many people who suffer from problems like urinary incontinence, painful sex, and other issues from pregnancy and childbirth. They will examine you and provide specific exercises for you to strengthen your muscles. They may also suggest a pessary—a silicone device you wear in your vagina each day. Surgery is only recommended in more severe cases but is a good option to have if postpartum incontinence is diminishing your ability to live a full and enjoyable life.
There is hope for urinary incontinence after childbirth. With a combination of time, exercises, and the support of a pelvic floor expert, you can someday be free from changing every time you sneeze!
Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.