How women’s health physiotherapy can help with urinary incontinence
Your body starts going through major changes as soon as you get pregnant and before the bump even starts showing. You may be one of the lucky ones who and experience few, or even no unpleasant symptoms, but you might find that due to the way your body moves and changes, the pressure on your pelvis leads to you experiencing urinary incontinence. Even though this is unpleasant and common during and after pregnancy, can be treated and prevented, particularly if you get help for it early on.
Why do some women experience urinary incontinence and others don’t?
There are some factors that can make you more prone to urinary incontinence, such as being overweight, smoking, constipation or heavy lifting. It can also be a result of pelvic floor muscle weakness having given birth. Urinary incontinence can also result from the pregnancy itself; the position of the baby and the natural changes on your body. Changing hormones can affect the lining of your bladder and urethra, and there are some medical conditions, such as diabetes and MS, as well as taking certain anxiety medications or having experienced a stroke in the past, which can make you more likely to experience urinary incontinence. Finally, if you have had a previous urinary tract infection that hasn’t completely resolved, you will be more likely to develop symptoms during pregnancy – incontinence is a symptom of a UTI.
How can a women’s health physiotherapist help you prevent and treat urinary incontinence
The muscles that have to hold everything in place during pregnancy are like hammock and will keep stretching during the nine months. When you then add the extra weight of your growing baby, amniotic fluid, swollen breasts and so on, you have the perfect recipe for developing urinary incontinence.
Preparing the muscles around your lower back, abdominal region and pelvic floor both before your pregnancy and during it, is key. During pregnancy a women’s health physiotherapist specialising in pregnancy can help you by:
- Giving you a programme of safe exercises to target your pelvic region
- Educating you on the pelvic floor muscles and teaching you how to do pelvic floor exercises
- Advising you how to rest comfortably while keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong
- Preparing your pelvic floor for labour
- Offer advice on what and when to drink to reduce symptoms, for example, carbonated and caffeinated drinks can make you feel the urge to pass urine more often, and drinking late at night leaves you more prone to overnight leaking
- Offer advice on foods to eat to reduce symptoms, for example, a high fibre diet will help you avoid constipation
Treating urinary incontinence after childbirth
Some women will be lucky in that their urinary incontinence goes away once they have given birth. For others though, their symptoms may remain, or even get worse. From six weeks post-childbirth, you can see a women’s health physiotherapist for an abdominal and pelvic floor muscle assessment, which is beneficial if you are experiencing symptoms, but also if you are wanting to return to exercise safely and check your pelvic floor muscle function to make sure that you are ready to do so. You will be given further exercises to rehabilitate your pelvic floor muscles and be shown how to do them effectively and correctly so that you can be sure you are doing them the right way when you are at home and without supervision.
Urinary incontinence is a common condition during pregnancy as well as after giving birth. With the help of a women’s health physiotherapist, you will be in a better position to control and manage symptoms and concentrate on enjoying your pregnancy and your new baby.