There’s no doubt about it: Having a new baby can be messy. Not only do new parents have to deal with changing diapers and constant baby spit-up, but also you may experience a lot of changes to your own body in the first few days and weeks after giving birth that might seem pretty gross.
In fact, one of the most common side effects of giving birth is both urinary and fecal incontinence, which is another word for leaking pee and poop. Urinary incontinence can affect up to one-third of all women after their first birth and more than three quarters of women after a subsequent birth, so if this is happening to you, you’re not alone.
Typically, incontinence is more common among those who have had vaginal births, especially if those who had forceps used during birth or had an episiotomy, although women who have had c-sections may also experience incontinence.
That’s because postpartum incontinence is caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles caused by childbirth. According to UCLA Health, there are two nerves called the pudendal and the pelvic nerves that are on either side of the birth canal that carry signals to the brain about the bladder and the rectum. If these nerves are damaged by the baby’s head pressing on them during labor, the pelvic muscles may become weaker, leading to incontinence.
For most postpartum women, urinary incontinence typically occurs when they do something that stresses the body, such as laughing, sneezing, coughing or exercising. This is called stress incontinence. However, others may also experience the feeling of “having to go” more frequently or have accidents as they race to bathroom, or they may experience both types of incontinence.
Also, some women may also experience fecal incontinence, which can result in women passing more gas or not being able to control their bowel movements.
Luckily, for most people, this incontinence will often go away within the first few weeks or months after giving birth, and most postpartum incontinence problems can be fixed through easy lifestyle changes and therapists who specialize in pelvic floor exercises can do wonders at helping you get back to normal.
However, if your incontinence hasn’t gone away in the first six weeks after giving birth, you should see a doctor.
So how can you manage your postpartum pee problems on your own? Here are five easy things you can do to deal with postpartum incontinence.
- Wear Pads or Adult Diapers
One of the easiest solutions for postpartum incontinence is to wear either pads, which are specifically designed to collect urine, rather than sanitary pads, or absorbent underwear (also known as adult diapers) in the first few weeks after giving birth. These can help absorb leaks and reduce odor. You should not use tampons during your postpartum period, because they are considered unsafe.At Neb Medical, we carry several different brands of urinary pads and adult diapers that come in various thicknesses, depending on how much leakage you are experiencing. And the good news is that you can get these products for free through your insurance as long as your doctor says they’re medically necessary.
- Do Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help you reduce incontinence and reduce the chance of vaginal prolapse. You can do Kegel exercises during your pregnancy or as soon as you feel up to it after your birth. They’re easy to do on your own, usually while lying down. If you need any help locating the correct muscles, you can ask your doctor for help.
- Avoid Caffeine
If you’ve been avoiding caffeine throughout your pregnancy, you’re probably dying to have that first cup after you give birth. But if you are experiencing any urinary incontinence, it’s best to avoid caffeine for the time being since caffeine is causes your body to release more liquid than it takes in. Plus, if you’re breastfeeding, caffeine can pass through your breast milk and keep your baby more awake, so it’s probably best to avoid it altogether.
- Drink Enough Water
This may seem counterintuitive but drinking less fluids may actually make your incontinence worse. When you don’t drink enough water, your urine becomes more concentrated, which can irritate your bladder and cause you to pee more frequently. Instead, stick to getting at least 8 cups of water a day.
- Get Enough Fiber
Getting enough fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is important in the days and weeks after you give birth to help regulate your bowel movements. That’s because when your large intestines fill up, they press on your bladder and make you feel like you’ve got to pee. Plus, if you’re constipated, you may strain to poop on the toilet, which can also hurt your already sore pelvic muscles. Soluble fiber helps absorb water and slow down digestion, while insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation. Make sure to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, oats and whole grains to keep you regular.