Effective Treatment for UI during Pregnancy and Postpartum

UI in pregnant women and post-pregnancyContributed by: Stacey Clarke, DPT, Pelvic Health Physical Therapist 

There are many changes, both anatomical and physiological, that occur in the bodies of women who are pregnant. These may include an increased heart rate, increase in blood circulating within the body, and natural changes in the pelvic anatomy. The growing uterus and fetus weigh solely on the pelvic floor muscle, which can contribute to chronic muscle stress and weakness. An expanding uterus also puts pressure on the bladder during pregnancy and the results are often an overactive bladder.

For women who are pregnant, stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is the most common type of urinary incontinence. Affecting approximately 54% of pregnant women, SUI is the involuntary loss of urine on effort or physical exertion or sneezing or coughing.

Pregnancy and childbirth can also weaken the perineum and the muscles surrounding the urethra. These muscles are meant to prevent urine from leaving the body, but they often become weak when the bladder has a strong contraction.

To help prevent SUI during pregnancy and the postpartum period I recommend conservative therapy or perineal rehabilitation through a pelvic floor muscle exercise program as the first-line intervention. Exercise is often recommended and important for pregnant and postpartum women. Cardio and strength-training exercise are common but I also recommend pelvic floor therapy (PFT). This form of exercise relaxes and strengthens the muscles under the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. A pelvic floor training exercise isn’t complicated and can be done in your own home. And while PFT is great for pregnant and postpartum women, it’s a non-surgical option for any woman experiencing a pelvic floor disorder.

There are no guarantees, but it is fair to expect your pregnancy and labor to go easier and possibly even quicker when you incorporate any strength and flexibility exercises into your daily routine. Before you begin an exercise program, make sure you talk with your health care provider. Although exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, your doctor might advise you not to exercise. Here are a few suggestions to help make your pregnancy easier and even healthier:

  • Find an exercise partner
  • Try a prenatal yoga class
  • Listen to your body
  • Take a meditation class
  • Stay motivated
  • Rest
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