Updated 26 July 2016

5 tips on incontinence in pregnancy and childbirth

According to studies, 40% of women experience bladder weakness as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.


Pregnancy comes with a lot of changes to your body, one of which might be urinary incontinence or bladder weakness, where you experience an involuntary loss of urine.

For some, bladder weakness might be mild and infrequent, but in other pregnant women, it can be severe. And unfortunately, it can continue after pregnancy too.

Most women experience stress incontinence during pregnancy. Stress incontinence is the loss of urine caused by increased pressure on the bladder and the bladder sphincter does not function well enough to hold in urine.

Bladder weakness during pregnancy can also be caused by an overactive bladder. Women who have an overactive bladder need to urinate more than usual because their bladders have uncontrollable spasms. In addition, the muscles surrounding the urethra – the tube through which urine passes from the bladder – can be affected. These muscles are meant to prevent urine from leaving the body, but they may not be strong enough if the bladder has a strong contraction.

After pregnancy, incontinence problems might continue because childbirth weakens the pelvic floor muscles, which can cause an overactive bladder – which makes those pelvic floor exercises a vital part of ensuring you have a healthy pregnancy.

Here are a few tips to help you cope with incontinence pre and post-delivery:

1) Talk to your doctor 

If you have urinary incontinence during your pregnancy, or are experiencing it post-partum, then you should take action. Make an appointment and speak honestly with your doctor about it. Your doctor will be able to advise you best on what measures you can take to improve your condition, based on your individual symptoms. 

2) Pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises are not only useful during pregnancy; they also help strengthen your pelvic muscles after delivery too.

If you had a C-Section, talk to your doctor to see how soon after the birth you can do these exercises.

If you are not sure how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly, follow our step-by-step guide.

3) Use the correct incontinence products 

If you are experiencing urinary leakage, wearing purpose-made products can help to give you peace of mind. TENA, makes a range of incontinence products to suit every bladder and body shape, from pantyliners to full protective underwear, so you never have to suffer the embarrassment of leaking urine in public.

You should not be trying to use other products such as sanitary towels to mop up any urine leakage. Sanitary towels are designed for absorbing blood, and are simply not equipped for urine leaks, and the accompanying odour that is often a problem. Purpose-made products, however, are designed to be discreet and odour free, so that you feel confident and fresh all day.

4) Urinate on schedule 

To manage any bladder weakness you’re experiencing during and after your pregnancy, it’s important to incorporate lifestyle changes like pelvic floor exercises. Urinating on a schedule can also help to prevent embarrassing accidents.

Use a chart or diary to record the times that you urinate and when you leak urine. This will give you an idea of your leakage patterns so that you can avoid leaking in the future by going to the bathroom at those times.

5) Watch what you eat and drink 

Your diet can affect your bladder control, as some foods are bladder irritants. These include alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, sugar, sweeteners, corn syrup, honey, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods and spicy foods.

Watch your fluid intake too - both drinking too much and drinking too little can make managing urinary incontinence difficult. Forget the eight glasses of water a day theory: rather monitor your fluid intake by keeping an eye on your urine. If it’s dark, you’re not drinking enough. If it’s colourless, you’re drinking too much. It should be a pale straw colour. 

For advice on bladder weakness products, please call us on 0860 673 377. Visit TENA for more information or to order a free sample. You can also buy TENA products online at Tena shop. 

Read more:
12 tips to ensure bladder weakness doesn't ruin your holiday plans
7 tips to help you look after a disabled loved one with incontinence


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Incontinence Expert

Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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