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PREGNANCY
INCONTINENCE...
A COMMON
PROBLEM
The weight gain, the nausea and the morning sickness...a less known aspect of pregnancy
is urinary incontinence also known as pregnancy incontinence. And though embarrassing,
HEALTH
learns that the good news is that it is usually easy to treat...
Expecting your bundle of joy is an exciting time in any couple’s life. Changes occur day by day with
your baby developing and growing and the idea of parenthood starts sinking in and becoming
more of a reality. One about-to-be first time mom is Vickie* who is in her third trimester of
pregnancy. She says her and her husband were thrilled to learn they were expecting. And while
she says advice came from everyone—friends, family and well wishers, no one mentioned the
problem of urinary incontinence. She explains, “I was actually shocked the first time it happened
to me. I rushed to the doctor and asked her if my water had broken and she looked a little amused.
It began in the third trimester and now it’s getting to the point I amweary of drinking too many
liquids for fear of not being able to have control. I wish I had been pre-warned...” (*name changed)
She is far from alone; although urinary incontinence is often thought of as a necessary part
of growing older, according to the National Association for Continence, 63 percent of stress-
incontinent women say their symptoms began during or after pregnancy. In one study, most of the
500 otherwise healthy participants experienced urinary incontinence at some point from the first
through the third trimester. In fact, overall, women experience incontinence two times more often
than men due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract.
Defined
Female stress incontinence can be
described as the involuntary release
of urine due to stress placed on the
bladder. This stress does not have
to involve major activity, and can
be something as simple as sneezing,
coughing, lifting a heavy object or
laughing too hard. Some forms of
exercise, such as running, may also
cause stress incontinence. This type of
incontinence can affect young women
as easily as older women. Younger
women may feel more distressed
when they experience female stress
incontinence, simply due to the
fact that younger women do not
expect to experience incontinence
at a young age.
Why It Happens
Incontinence in women usually occurs
because of problems with muscles
that help to hold or release urine.
The body stores urine--water and
wastes removed by the kidneys--in
the bladder, a balloon-like organ. The
bladder connects to the urethra, the
tube through which urine leaves the
body. During urination, muscles in
the wall of the bladder contract, which
forces urine out of the bladder and
into the urethra. At the same time,
sphincter muscles surrounding the
urethra relax, letting urine pass out
of the body. Incontinence will occur
if your bladder muscles suddenly
contract or muscles surrounding the
urethra suddenly relax.
Why during Pregnancy
What changes during pregnancy
and childbirth predispose some
women to experiencing female stress
incontinence? One is changes in
hormones - the surge of hormones
during pregnancy, meant to support
a healthy pregnancy, and may also
cause a relaxation of the structures
supporting the bladder. However
hormone levels subside again once
the baby is born, usually solving the
problem. Not surprisingly, the second
factor is the weight of the baby - the
weight of the growing fetus can put a
significant amount of pressure on the
bladder, making sneezing or coughing
a tricky proposition.
19
Apr/May 2014