Incontinence is a medical condition that can take place in adults for a variety of reasons. However, during pregnancy is a common symptom women experience, with nearly 55% of all pregnant patients reporting frequent urination as having a negative impact on their quality of life. As a pregnancy progresses, the severity and frequency of leaking urine can increase, leaving women feeling uncomfortable at best. Before treatment of pregnancy incontinence can be suggested or started, it is necessary to understand the types of incontinence women may experience and the reasons behind the uncomfortable medical issue.
For most women, incontinence is the result of stress on the body, which is the case during pregnancy as the growing child places pressure on the bladder. In other cases, incontinence may be linked to bladder contractions which create an urgent need to urinate. A shift in hormone balance may have an impact on the lining of the bladder, leading to leaking urine, as can other medical conditions like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, some anxiety medications, or a past stroke. Pregnant women may also experience a urinary tract infection of which incontinence is a symptom if it goes untreated for an extended period.
Pregnancy incontinence is more likely to occur among women who have experienced an overactive bladder or incontinence in the past, as well as those individuals with certain risk factors already present. These added risk factors include old age, carrying excess weight before pregnancy, giving birth vaginally in the past, or having a past pelvic surgery. Smokers also have a higher likelihood of experience pregnancy incontinence. No matter the cause, leaking urination is the result of weakened muscles.
Treating Pregnancy Incontinence
Although incontinence in pregnant women ranges in severity, there are several ways in which the symptoms can be reduced, providing a more comfortable quality of life. First, medical professionals often recommend doing regular exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor, like Kegels. As a safe, effective activity, Kegels involve squeezing the muscles used to hold in urine for several seconds at a time and then releasing. Doctors suggest doing five sets of Kegels daily to help maintain strong muscles throughout pregnancy.
Some lifestyle changes are also recommended to help ease the frustration and embarrassment of leaking urine during pregnancy. Avoiding carbonated and caffeinated drinks is helpful, as these culprits create the need to urinate more often. Swapping these options with water or decaffeinated beverages is a step in the right direction. Similarly, making a conscious effort to not drink anything in the evening is beneficial, as is increasing the amount of fiber in one’s diet. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout pregnancy is also helpful in reducing the amount of pressure placed on the bladder.
In more severe cases of pregnancy incontinence, pelvic mesh surgery may be performed. Through this procedure, a permanent mesh insert is placed in the vagina which is meant to act as a strengthening tool of the pelvic floor, improving weakened or damaged tissue. While vaginal mesh surgery is common among women who experience incontinence, a law firm that handles malpractice cases against the NHS shares that several lawsuits arise over complications post-procedure. The mesh implant has been called barbaric, given that the mesh itself has a tendency to cut through the tissue, creating persistent discomfort when walking, moving, or having intercourse. More than 800 women are suing the NHS over these types of mesh implant complications in recent months, leaving the future of the treatment option in question for women experiencing pregnancy incontinence.
The most viable course of action to decrease the discomfort of pregnancy incontinence does not revolve around a quick medical procedure. Instead, women should focus their attention on shifting the things they can control throughout their pregnancy to ease the symptoms of incontinence when possible. Performing simple exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder is also a sound option in treating incontinence, without the need for invasive surgery that may not ultimately provide lasting results.