How to prevent bladder weakness

Advice on how you can prevent embarrassing accidents during pregnancy with Pilates

Image: Thinkstock

A woman's body goes through many changes during pregnancy, and unfortunately your bladder can often be one of the organs affected by this nine-month baby-growing process.

Bladder weakness, or urinary incontinence, is very common. Fifty percent of pregnant women, and 85 percent of women in their second pregnancy, will experience some degree of bladder weakness. It's most common in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the bladder often has a rapidly growing baby pressed up against it which weakens the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles are a sling of muscles from the base of your spine to the pubic bone, in the front of the body. They help to hold the bladder, uterus and bowel in place.

The pressure of the baby and hormonal changes during pregnancy cause the pelvic floor muscles to stretch and soften — as the body prepares for birth — but maintaining good pelvic floor strength is important, and can also help you to have a better (ie, faster) labour.

Weakened pelvic floor muscles — affected by pregnancy (and later childbirth) — can "let go" without notice, leading to the involuntary release of urine. This can be brought on by intense physical movements such as coughing, sneezing or when lifting heavy objects — including a new baby.

There are more serious conditions that can cause bladder control issues, so be sure to talk to your healthcare professional about any weakness you are experiencing.

There are simple exercises you can do on a daily basis to help to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong. Pelvic floor exercises — also known as Kegel exercises after their inventor Dr Arnold Kegel — should be performed on a regular basis by all women regardless of age or health.

Kegel exercises involve a clenching of the pelvic floor muscles for three to five seconds then releasing and relaxing for five seconds. Do as many repetitions as you can several times a day and try to increase this each day.

Many women are embarrassed about suffering from bladder weakness, but rest assured it's a common problem for women of all different ages. There are a range of different products available to help you keep your problem from affecting your day to day life, ranging from light liners to heavier pads.

Visit www.poise.com.au for more information and to see a range of products designed to suit your needs. Poise products are also available from the feminine hygiene section of the supermarket.

12:0AM, Dec 1st 2011

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