Medically Reviewed by Joycelyn C. Schindler, MD
Pregnancy brings the promise of a bouncing new baby.
On the other hand, the hormonal changes and stretching of a woman’s body bring the prospect of post-pregnancy stress incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
One study indicated that about 25% of first-time mothers experience urinary incontinence and about 50% experience some pelvic prolapse.
“Many techniques and processes have been developed to make deliveries safe for the baby and the mother,” says McLeod Gynecologist Joycelyn Schindler, MD. “Yet, sometimes Mother Nature has different ideas, forcing us to turn a breach baby or cutting an episiotomy to aid the baby’s delivery.”
Aside from the unpredictable, most pregnant women can take action that will help them prevent or reduce pelvic dysfunctions.
- It’s well known that Kegel exercises help women, who are already suffering stress incontinence, to build up the muscles in their pelvis and control their need to urinate. Like an athlete preparing for competition, a pregnant woman can help build up those pelvic muscles by performing Kegels during her pregnancy and continuing them after. It’s important to continue practicing Kegels after your baby’s birth or urinary incontinence may increase. Stronger pelvic muscles are also more likely to regain their shape after birth.
- Include plenty of fiber in your diet to avoid constipation, which causes strain on the pelvis muscles.
- Control your weight. You should expect some weight gain during pregnancy, but excess weight pushes down on your bladder and stretches the muscles in the pelvis.
- Stop smoking, because coughing can aggravate incontinence.
- Research seems to suggest, though is not conclusive, that perineal massage (the area around the vagina) during the last few weeks of labor can help avoid an episiotomy.
There are a range of solutions, including surgery, for stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. However, by maintaining regular pre-natal visits and following some of the suggestions here, you can increase the possibility that after delivery you’ll only need to focus on your new baby.
Find an OB/GYN near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, Office of Women’s Health, (US Dept of HHS), Journal of Prenatal Medicine, BJOG International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Women’s Health Foundation