It’s not something pregnant women like to talk about. You may discuss unusual food cravings with a girlfriend, or sadness over the first stretch mark, but many women quietly suffer from another common occurrence in pregnancy—urinary incontinence.
One study of women in England showed that 59 percent experienced incontinence during their pregnancies, with 31 percent still having problems following the delivery of their babies. Other studies put the incidences higher, with 65 percent of women experiencing leakage, either occasionally or daily during pregnancy. Most women’s urinary troubles subside a few months after delivery, but for those who still experience leakage after three months, the risk of long-term problems rises to 94 percent.
Although incontinence is not an inevitable symptom of pregnancy, women certainly increase their chances with each pregnancy and with the method by which they delivered. The good news is that incontinence is entirely treatable—at best with simple exercises you can perform at home, and with more severe cases with a visit to your doctor.
In the third trimester of pregnancy, your internal organs are pushed and squeezed to accommodate your growing baby. Your bulging uterus not only presses against the bladder, straining your urethra (the canal leading out of the bladder), but also exhausts muscles of the pelvic floor, sometimes causing them to weaken. A cough or sneeze may overwhelm the weakened muscles surrounding the urethra, allowing urine to exit and you to leak. Called stress incontinence, this is the most common type of urinary incontinence in women ages 30 to 50. Another common type, urge incontinence, happens when you feel like you need to go to the bathroom but then leak before you get there.
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