There are many common symptoms to expect during pregnancy, but is urinary incontinence one of them? We share why urine leaks can occur and if they’re anything to be concerned about.
Is It Normal To Leak Urine During Pregnancy?
Is It Normal To Leak Urine During Pregnancy?
There are many common symptoms to expect during pregnancy, but is urinary incontinence one of them?
You may have heard other women talk about how often they need to urinate during pregnancy.
“The baby’s pushing on my bladder!” They might say. And they’re not wrong!
The further along in a pregnancy a woman gets, the more her uterus (womb) will grow to accommodate her growing baby. The uterus (and baby!) will therefore push against her bladder and can increase the urge to urinate.
It’s important to also note that earlier in a pregnancy, a woman may also experience frequent urination due to hormonal changes.
Urine leaks during pregnancy
But what about actual urine leaks during pregnancy? Are they normal?
Well, perhaps normal isn’t the right word. Let’s say that they’re common.
One study showed that of over 1200 women, 52% of them experienced mild or moderate urinary incontinence . Urinary leaks, or urinary incontinence, are most often experienced later in pregnancy - usually from the beginning of the third trimester onwards.
As mentioned above, as the baby grows, more pressure is placed on the bladder (and the bowel) and can cause involuntary leaks. But this isn’t the only way leaks can occur.
The weight of the baby puts pressure on the pelvic floor, and as a woman gets closer to her due date, the pelvic floor muscles relax to prepare for labour. This too can lead to urinary leaks as the pelvic floor muscles also help support and control the bladder, so once they weaken the more likely it is that leaks can occur.
Sneezing, coughing, lifting, exercising and laughing can all encourage leakage too - this is known as stress incontinence, one of the types of urinary incontinence.
You may also be at a higher risk of developing pregnancy incontinence if you have a history of urinary tract infections (UTIs), you’ve previously had a vaginal birth or you’re overweight. Also if you experienced leaks pre-pregnancy, then it’s highly likely it’ll continue throughout the pregnancy.
How to manage pregnancy incontinence
There are a few things you can do that may help control or lessen urine leaks during pregnancy. These include:
Pelvic floor exercises
Keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong can better support your bladder, and therefore may reduce urine leaks and even the urgency to urinate.
We recommend speaking to a pelvic physiotherapist who can create a personalised pelvic floor exercise program.
Having a full bowel adds extra pressure on your bladder. Ensuring you’re consuming enough fibre and drinking enough water will be extremely helpful. If you’re still experiencing constipation, speak to your pharmacist or doctor about other options such as stool softeners.
You might think drinking more water will make you wee more! Well, that’s somewhat true but staying hydrated even if you’re experiencing leaks is so important because it helps you avoid dehydration which subsequently puts you at risk of a UTI.
Avoid bladder irritants
Yes, there are foods and drinks to avoid to control incontinence. It’s already recommended that alcohol and caffeine be avoided during pregnancy, so there are two you can cross off the list! But soft drinks and highly processed foods can also equal bad news for your bladder, so try to reduce these if you’re experiencing leaks.
Find the right incontinence products
You can minimise the discomfort of urine leaks during pregnancy by finding incontinence products that suit your individual needs.
Our European-made range of urinary incontinence pads come in different absorbency levels, with the maximum being 1000mL. They’ve got an ultra-dry core for fast-acting absorbency and dryness, and are also dermatologically tested to be gentle on the skin. Despite their high-level absorbency, they’re still extremely slimline and fit to the body, so you can go about your day comfortably and confidently!
Oh and FYI - menstrual pads won’t cut it for urine leaks, as they’re not designed for that kind of absorbency.
Can you avoid urine leaks during pregnancy?
The above management tips, especially pelvic floor exercises, can be helpful in trying to prevent urinary incontinence, however, it can’t be guaranteed. There are many changes the body goes through during pregnancy and for many women, bladder changes are included.
Just know there are plenty of ways to help manage incontinence throughout pregnancy to ensure you feel as comfortable as possible.
How do you know if it's urine or another fluid?
Urine leaks during pregnancy should only be small, intermittent dribbles. From the colour and scent can also decipher that it’s urine.
However, if you’re experience more distinct flows or a ‘gush’ of liquid rather than dribbles that is white/clear (or green) and odourless, it could be amniotic fluid. Call your doctor right away if you experience this or you’re unsure.
Will urinary incontinence go away after birth?
It is more likely you’ll experience urinary incontinence postpartum if you’ve experienced it during pregnancy. Every woman is different too, so for some the incontinence symptoms will go away in a matter or weeks, but for others the leaking may continue and in some cases get worse.
Birth is of course extremely taxing on your pelvic floor, particularly if you have a vaginal birth, which makes it harder to control the bladder. The urethra (the tube that lets urine leave your bladder and body) might also not be able to stay closed if your pelvic floor muscles are weak or damaged.
Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns and especially if you’re still experiencing incontinence six or more weeks after birth.