Talking About Stress Incontinence and Other Bladder Problems After Birth

For the first few months after my partner and I got together I asked him to put headphones in when I went to the toilet so he couldn't hear me wee. Toilet habits are not something I am comfortable talking about, but during pregnancy and beyond I experienced some problems which made me feel embarrassed and alone. Leaking wee was not one of those conversations I felt I could have publicly yet a large number of women experience some form of continence problems during pregnancy and afterwards. We shouldn't feel alone so in this post I'm talking incontinence problems after birth.

A waterfall to represent incontinence after birth

I had a conversation with a colleague at work several years after my first child where we were joking about near misses and she shared how she had sneezed in a shop and wet herself. I laughed and sympathised, but another colleague who was a few years younger than me (and had never been pregnant) was horrified. She hadn’t even imagined these things happened to normal people, surely leaking wee just happens to old people?  I imagine people reading this post will be split into a similar two camps: the horrified and those that are nodding along. 

My Incontinence Story 

My pelvic floor hasn’t been strong enough to safely use a trampoline for years. My kegal exercises have been sporadic at best and generally triggered by a near miss, or a not so much of a miss. You know those times when you sneeze with a full bladder or in a position that makes it difficult to engage your pelvic floor muscles, the "oops moments" as one brand calls them.

I knew the exercises were important during my last pregnancy, not just to prevent leaks, but to help limit my pelvic girdle pain and for a better birth. I still didn’t do them often enough. A few weeks after giving birth to my last baby my pelvic floor was the worst it had ever been thanks to being stretched in labour and a bad cough given to me by my toddler.

I guess the low point was after a few occasions of having to change my trousers I thought “sod it I’ll try incontinence pads” and sent my partner out to get them. I clarified that I needed actual pads (similar to maternity or sanitary towels) not just liners. It’s not an area of Boots I have browsed before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just knew I wanted ones long enough to be effective when I had a coughing fit while lying in bed at night. 

G looked carefully and decided to choose the pack with the most raindrops on the indicator. These bad boys were definitely bigger than a liner. They were so big that they stuck out of my pants in every direction and that was at a time I was still wearing massive knickers at four weeks postpartum. There was no chance of me needing to change my clothes due to leaks with these. In fact if I were to have another baby (definitely not happening) I would buy these for the first 48 hours after birth so for the first time I wouldn’t be worried about leaking blood. They are massive. 

A packet on incontinence papers

Wetting yourself is humiliating even if there is no one around to witness it. There were a few occasions during pregnancy where a sneeze resulted in a leak and more recently post birth I had a cough so bad that on one occasion I ended up coughing, vomiting and leaking wee at the same time. One of the worst, and most surprising, leaks was when I shouted at my eldest daughter (she was having a meltdown which resulted in her throwing her new watch against the wall and I lost it with her) and the force of my shouting pushed wee out. Who knew that was even possible?

Fortunately as my body has recovered from birth and I have continued to exercise my pelvic floor I haven’t had a repeat of the level of leaking experienced during those early weeks. I am now regularly using Perifit, a pelvic floor trainer which I reviewed recently [AD - Gifted] and which can be used from around 4 weeks after birth. I hope one day I will be able to go trampolining with my children.

Incontinence is not an inevitable part of pregnancy and childbirth. For most of us pelvic floor exercises will be enough, but we don’t always do them properly and sometimes the birth is just too much for our body to cope with so it needs time to recover.  Luckily there are great options for the short term to save embarrassment, you can use plastic pants or period pants.

When I asked fellow bloggers if they were happy to share their experiences about continence after birth I didn’t know what to expect, but the answers given fascinated me. From those that struggled to wee immediately after birth to those that struggle not to many many years later I appreciate their honesty. I was surprised that people experienced bladder problems with both vaginal deliveries and c sections and at the variety of issues. 

Bladder Problems Immediately After Birth Are Common and Don't Necessarily Last

For almost a month after Vita was born, my bladder was stunned. I could recognise when I needed to go but it took rather complicated gymnastics in order to make it happen - I couldn’t empty my bladder sitting down at all. After a while, presumably as the bruising on the nerves healed, I was able to use those muscles again in order to urinate on my own and six months on, my pelvic floor is mostly back to normal - though I don’t plan to test that out by jumping on any trampolines!
Amber Meet The Wildes 

I'm six weeks post partum and for the first few weeks I couldn't recognise when I needed to wee. I'd go ages without needing the loo and then assume I must need to go and have the biggest wee! For the first week I thought I was just bleeding loads as I stood up but I realised that I was actually just having a wee every time... Thank god for maternity pads! 
Cliona Made To Mum

I remember a few days after having our first child I walked across the room to the toilet, thought about having a wee and then proceeded to pee all over the floor without feeling any control over it. I was mortified and cried afterwards, but now I look back and realise it was part and parcel of a pretty traumatic birth. It was still a very lonely place to be though, because people don't talk about it enough. 

Incontinence and Bladder Problems Affect Those Who Have C Sections Too 

I couldn’t wee at all after George was born - I had a catheter after the section - when they removed it I couldn’t pee. I had it refitted for 24 hours and was told if I didn’t pee when it came out the second time I’d need it again. The pain of catheter was worse than the section pain and I was terrified at not being able to pee I called my mum sobbing on the toilet at midnight from labour ward. Thankfully it resolved itself in the 24 hours. 
Maria Happy Mummy

My bladder has been terrible all my life, but as for now (after 2 babies) it's 1000 times worse - and I had caesarean births with both. I think a lot of people think you have to have pushed them out for it to affect your pelvic floor but it truly doesn't matter as long as you've carried them and had the pressure there. I couldn't sneeze or cough when I was pregnant without having accidents, and even now if I have a cold or a horrible cough I leak constantly. I try not to be embarrassed by it but it is really inconvenient at times. It's just one of those unavoidable things though!
Fern Mumconventional

And Many Women Experience Ongoing Continence or Pelvic Floor Problems After Birth

I had a bad 3rd/4th degree tear after both of mine which required a significant amount of stitches. I remember after the last time, for quite a while I couldn’t actually tell if I was doing a wee or not without looking to check - it was the strangest feeling (or lack of feeling!). I downloaded the Squeezy app and made sure I worked on my pelvic floor as much as I could. I don’t have any leakage issues now, I can control my bladder but I have found it almost impossible to use a menstrual cup when I’m on my period now and tampons aren’t much better either.
Sarah Arthurwears

Mine was awful for a few weeks after birth I only had to sneeze a bit and it would set it off. It's calmed down now but my bladder can't hold as much as it used to I need to wee a lot , like one hot drink when I'm out and about and I'll have to go to toilet about 3/4 times. 

I've not sneezed, trampolined, laughed or coughed safely for 8 years. Sometimes, I can't even 'hold it' for longer than a couple of minutes. I blame the tearing because I did all my pelvic floor exercises.

With my first baby, I didn’t have bladder issues, it was the other end. I pushed for nearly four hours, ended up with a ventouse and a second degree tear. If I needed to pass gas, I couldn’t hold it in and when I needed to go number two, I HAD to go. Luckily these continence issues only last a couple of months. However I had similar issues to Sarah with regards to using tampons as well, they’d slip out and I’d leak constantly and this lasted until I fell pregnant again. 
During my second pregnancy I was having bladder accidents all the time and I was dreading what was to come after birth and all the pushing. 
As soon as I’d had my second child and was stitched up again (another second degree tear, but only pushing for ten minutes this time) I knew things felt completely different down there...somehow back to normal. I found it incredulous that after pushing a second child out things could feel so good. I had no continence issues whatsoever and tampons work again...I no longer have to wear a pants liner just in case. I have no idea what the difference has been this time- less pushing perhaps, but doesn’t explain why my vagina feels more normal than it did in between my two pregnancies. Better stitching? I don’t know. But I’m not risking having another child to mess it all up again! 
Nicola Mummy To Dex

I’ve had three natural births, the last one resulting in a quite nasty 3rd degree tear. Because of that, if I cough a lot or sneeze, the inevitable happens, and once I need a wee, I have to go immediately- no holding on anymore. I’m pregnant with number four and it’s obviously more of an issue than ever! 

When I took up running when my twins were 2, I used to think I would get really sweaty - I didn’t twig it was my useless pelvic floor! After two c-sections, I thought I’d be safe hence my complete ignorance. I now have to be more prepared when heading out for a run - oh and the trampoline is a BIG NO!

I’ll leave you with this thought from Nicola
I thought I was ‘broken’ forever, so now whenever women tell me things aren’t right down there, I plead with them to see GP and not be fobbed off with ‘it’s normal after having a child’ because it’s obviously not. 

Talking Incontinence, pelvic floor and bladder problems after birth

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