In honor of the upcoming Labor Day holiday, I thought I’d write about one of the major concerns for women – the incontinence that can be associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery. It’s pretty common knowledge that pregnant women urinate more often due to the extra weight on their bladder, but the surprising fact many people don’t know is that up to 70% of women experience incontinence during pregnancy. Often that incontinence will worsen after delivery. Usually symptoms will dissipate 7-10 days after giving birth, but for some women the incontinence continues.
I once heard a doctor say in a meeting, “A woman’s body and pelvic floor will never be the same after pregnancy and childbirth.” This statement left quite the impression with me, mostly because I’d never heard that before. People might talk about making a pregnant woman comfortable, but the discussion rarely, if ever, goes any further than that. When a family is preparing for a new addition they seem to get so wrapped up in the coming baby that mom’s long-term well-being is often an afterthought. Sure, everyone’s concerned about mom’s health while she’s pregnant, but when does anyone ask what symptoms she’ll be left with in the long run, and perhaps more importantly… what she can do now to help alleviate those symptoms?
While the baby’s health and welfare are the top priorities during and after a pregnancy, I plead with women everywhere to take a pro-active approach to their own health as well. Your child will need you to be active and fit so that you are able to run after him or her as a toddler. As your son or daughter grows, don’t you want to be able to take them to Disney World without having to leave long ride lines to find a toilet? Can you imagine spending your child’s future wedding day consumed with worry about leaking through your ivory dress?
Incontinence doesn’t have to be something we simply accept as an outcome of pregnancy. While many women do experience it to some degree, there are simple things every woman can do to help prevent incontinence, or at least lessen the symptoms. Research pelvic floor exercises… and start them before you even become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about your choices in the birthing process: there are two different types of episiotomies, and one may cause more harm to your body than the other, and is it even necessary at all; if an aid is needed, is it best to go with forceps or a vacuum?
Pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most physically strenuous events you’ll ever have to endure. When an athlete runs a marathon, do they simply focus on the finish line, or do they prepare their body and mind? The athlete buys the correct shoes, trains for the event, eats the right foods, and takes care of him or herself following the race. You need to approach labor and delivery in the same way. Prepare yourself by training with pelvic floor exercises and arm yourself with information. Best wishes to all the soon-to-be moms out there!
Published On: September 01, 2006