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Pelvic Therapy for Stress Incontinence After Childbirth

Picture this: you're a new mom, bravely embarking on your first solo Target adventure with your precious little one snugly tucked into their baby carrier. As you stroll down the aisles, you find yourself casually browsing nail polish colors, contemplating a DIY pedicure during baby's naptime. But then, out of nowhere, a familiar tickle creeps into your nose, and you feel the telltale signs of a sneeze coming on. Panic sets in because, as any mom who's been there knows all too well, a sneeze means only one thing: the dreaded leak…

If this story sounds all too familiar, you may be experiencing something called “stress incontinence. Let’s get into what it is, why it happens, and most importantly, what you can do to put an end to it once and for all.

Stress Incontinence: What is it?

Stress incontinence involves the involuntary leakage of urine during activities that exert pressure on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercising. While it can affect individuals of any age, it is particularly prevalent in women who have given birth, with factors like vaginal delivery, hormonal changes, and pelvic floor muscle weakness contributing to its occurrence.

Why Does Stress Incontinence Happen Post-Pregnancy?

The pelvic floor muscles play a crucial role in supporting the bladder and maintaining urinary control. During pregnancy and childbirth, these muscles undergo significant stress and strain. Vaginal deliveries, in particular, can lead to stretching and weakening of the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, compromising their ability to provide proper support to the bladder. Hormonal changes during pregnancy also contribute to alterations in the connective tissues, further impacting bladder control.

Exercises for Stress Incontinence and Other Management Tools

Dealing with stress incontinence requires a holistic approach that goes beyond just strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. It's about restoring balance and harmony to the entire pelvic system, addressing not only weakness but also tension, mobility of the hip and spine, and coordination deficits. Here are some strategies to manage stress incontinence following pregnancy:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels): While strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is essential, it's equally crucial to ensure they have the right balance of strength and flexibility. Incorporating both contraction and relaxation techniques into your Kegel exercises can promote optimal muscle tone and control, addressing any imbalances that may contribute to incontinence. If you’re struggling to feel what your pelvic floor muscles are doing, or have fears about what the right exercises are for you, seek out a skilled pelvic physical therapist to guide you.

  • Maintaining a Healthy Diet: This isn’t just about weight - some foods and beverages can act as triggers for urgency and incontinence. Furthermore, foods that contribute to constipation can exacerbate incontinence symptoms. Embracing a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen can promote overall well-being, supporting your pelvic and overall health.

  • Fluid Management: While adjusting fluid intake can help minimize the likelihood of leakage, it's essential to approach fluid management mindfully. Rather than simply restricting fluids (as this can actually increase bladder symptoms like urgency), focus on hydrating effectively but sipping throughout the day, averaging about 2x your body weight in ounces.  Urine should be light yellow and normal frequency is about every 2-4 hours. 

  • Bladder Training: Gradually increasing the time between bathroom visits and practicing controlled voiding can indeed improve bladder control. However, effective bladder training goes beyond just extending intervals; it involves understanding your body's signals and responding appropriately. By tuning into your body's cues and practicing mindful voiding techniques, you can retrain your bladder to function optimally, reducing the frequency and urgency of leaks.

Pelvic Floor Therapy for Stress Incontinence 

Pelvic floor therapy is a vital component in addressing and overcoming stress incontinence. Skilled pelvic therapists can provide personalized interventions, including:

  • Pressure Management Techniques: Therapists can teach how to reduce downward pressure during activities like squatting, jumping and lifting, or sneezing, coughing, and laughing. This decreases stress on the pelvic floor and chance of leaks.

  • Coordination with Functional Activities: Incorporating pelvic floor exercises into daily functional activities ensures that individuals can apply these techniques in real-life situations, promoting better muscle coordination, which leads to less leaks and better bladder control.

  • Behavioral and Lifestyle Modifications: Therapists offer guidance on lifestyle adjustments, such as proper body mechanics, posture, and dietary changes, to support overall pelvic health.

  • Education on Bladder Health: Understanding the factors that contribute to stress incontinence and learning techniques to improve bladder habits are crucial components of pelvic floor therapy.

Physical Therapy for Stress Incontinence at Gaia Women’s PT

Stress incontinence following pregnancy is a common concern, but effective strategies exist to manage and overcome this condition. Pelvic floor therapy at Gaia Women’s PT, with its personalized approach and comprehensive interventions, empowers individuals to regain control over their pelvic health and enjoy a leak-free lifestyle. If you're experiencing stress incontinence post-pregnancy, don't hesitate to reach out to a qualified pelvic therapist like those at Gaia Women’s Physical Therapy who can guide you on a journey towards improved bladder control and enhanced quality of life. Read more here about urinary incontinence and other bladder conditions we treat.

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