Why am I Leaking Urine during Pregnancy?
The short answer is that urinary incontinence during pregnancy is common, but that does not make it normal. Even if your mom, grandmother, or best friend all suffered from bladder leaks while they were pregnant, you do not have to be incontinent while pregnant. Your pelvic floor muscles have a lot of pressure on them, the pressure, stress, and strain on your pelvic floor muscles only gets worse as your baby grows and moves throughout your pregnancy. (Not sure what your pelvic floor muscles are? Check out this Article). Our pelvic floor muscles have to be strong enough so that when we cough, laugh, or sneeze they contract. Otherwise you may be suffering from a condition known as "stress incontinence." Without this strong contraction you cannot prevent urine from leaking through your urethra.
When we're pregnant, it's unfortunate, but it's more difficult to have a strong pelvic floor muscle contraction, or "Kegel," that stops us from leaking when we cough, sneeze, or laugh. Your baby is literally sitting on top of your bladder and using your bladder as a trampoline. Your baby is going to put more pressure on your bladder and you are going to have more urgency; while normal frequency is every 2 to 3 hours, when you're pregnant it's going to be more often. By doing your kegels, doing your pelvic floor muscle contractions, you can leak less, you can have less urgency, and you can have better control of your pelvic floor muscles. You should be able to have strong enough pelvic floor contraction while pregnant, but it is going to be harder to do Kegels while pregnant. I have good first-hand experience, it's harder.
How to Treat Urinary Incontinence during Pregnancy
Your spine, hips & hip bones form the basis for your pelvis with your pelvic floor muscles sit down at the base of your pelvis, making up the foundation. Your bladder, uterus (with your baby inside) & ovaries sit inside this space with your baby, literally sitting on top of your bladder. That's a lot of pressure. When your pelvic floor muscles are strong, they are going to help close off your urethra and help prevent you from leaking. In order to strengthen these muscles, you have to do your Kegels, but that doesn’t mean that clenching your butt muscles. When I was pregnant with my second child I started gripping my gluteals because my stomach was all stretched out, and I could not hold a strong enough Kegel. When you grip your butt muscles you actually have a little bit of a Kegel, but that means that your pelvic floor isn't at the right length to complete a proper pelvic floor contraction when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. While you don't want to grip your butt, you do want to actively Kegel when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.
You also want to train yourself to do kegels while you exhale your breath. It is common for breathing to be impacted while you are pregnant and many women need to be retrained to properly breathe after they have their baby. When you do a proper Kegel, you want to tighten your tummy and the muscles of your pelvic floor. You can absolutely do a pelvic floor muscle contraction while you are pregnant, but it is more difficult and there is more pressure sitting on your pelvic floor. You need to have a nice strong Kegel that is coordinated with your breathing and when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. That is the best way to stop urine leaks when you are pregnant. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help you to do a proper Kegel with coordinated diaphragmatic breathing and not clenching your butt muscles.
Kegel Exercises for Pregnant Women
Most women do not know how to complete a proper Kegel. It sounds silly, but we recommend speaking with your OB/GYN or a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist who can walk you through the process. Once you know how to complete a proper Kegel, we recommend 90 repetitions each day to get your pelvic floor muscles built up and strong enough to prevent stress incontinence while you are pregnant.
To complete a proper Kegel you want to make sure you are contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. Hold them for 10 seconds 10 times for 3 cycles and you want to do this 3 times a day.
If you are in any pain, stop your Kegels and schedule an appointment with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. This is a sign of overtightened pelvic floor muscles that need to be released.
-FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City provides pelvic floor physical therapy in Lakeside, The Village, Nichols Hills and surrounding NW Oklahoma City. Our pelvic floor physical therapists are specially trained to treat all types of pelvic floor dysfunction including incontinence in men and women. Our practitioners take a patient-centered individualized approach that focuses on your pelvic health needs. If you are unsure about your pelvic health, or you want to see the FYZICAL Difference for yourself, schedule a free consultation today.