How To Manage Leaks During And After Pregnancy

How To Manage Leaks During And After Pregnancy

You're expecting and you couldn't be happier! There's literally a mini-you baking in the oven and you feel proud, excited, and even nervous about it. However, now the phrase, "you're expecting", has taken on a new meaning. Sure, you're expecting a baby, but you also may begin to throw up at random times, crave things you've never desired before, and even leak a little after a sneeze. Nobody told you that you should be expecting all of that!

You're able to get past the sleepless nights and aches and pains, but these leaks, they're not your thing. However, this too shall pass. In the meantime, you can implement a few techniques and products to make it a little more bearable.

What's Up With These Leaks?

A woman's body goes through A LOT while carrying a baby! The uncomfortable experiences are the body's way of adapting for the baby and preparing for childbirth. I mean, we've got to expect a little discomfort with a baby growing and organs shifting to make room for it, right?

Stressed Out Sphincter

You can thank your expanding uterus for putting pressure on the bladder and making you spritz when you walk, talk, laugh and sneeze. This extra pressure on your bladder is known as stress incontinence and this happens when the bladder sphincter doesn't function well enough to hold in urine.

Hormones Going Haywire

Hormones play a big part too. Relaxin is a hormone that relaxes your muscles in preparation for labor. Progesterone is also released to soften your ligaments. The result? A pelvic floor that's looser and softer, which leads to less control of your bladder.

Bladder Spazzes and Spritz

Are you frequenting the ladies room more often than usual? Then you might have an overactive bladder. This happens when the bladder starts uncontrollably spazzing out and it's a common condition for pregnant women.

Can I Do Anything About It?

The short answer is yes, you can do something about it. However, what you do about it might not actually stop the leaks. It's one of those things that you can't 100 percent control. However, there are things you can do to help manage it during your pregnancy.

Kegel exercises are helpful before, during and after pregnancy. Doing just a few sets of 20-30 Kegel exercises a day can help whip your pelvic floor muscles into shape. Keep in mind, a stronger pelvic floor can better support your uterus and bladder, which could mean fewer leaks.  Plus, they'll come in handy when it's time to give birth! However, before you decide to implement anything new, like Kegel exercises, be sure to consult with your doctor first.

You're probably tempted to cut back on your water intake but that's not a good idea. Ensure you're getting the recommended amount of water each day. Otherwise, you could wind up with dehydration or an unpleasant UTI.

Could your diet be irritating your bladder? It's certainly possible. Ditch the soda pops, coffee (sorry!), tomatoes, and citrus stuff.

Products Can Help You, Too

One way to keep your leaks to yourself is by using pads, but not just any kind of pads. If you're tempted to grab one of your menstrual pads that have been stashed away for a while, please don't. They might look like they can get the job done but they won't. Menstrual pads are great for absorbing menstrual flow but not the rapid output of urine. Instead, look into bladder control pads. They're much more comfortable and offer better protection. Bladder control pads are designed to control odor, keep you dry, and let you remain discreet about your leaks.

Using a Product is Okay

A lot of women are embarrassed about bladder leakage and don't discuss options with friends or their doctor. Others feel like a few leaks aren't that big of a deal. No matter how you feel about it, you don't have to just deal with it. Doing a few Kegels and wearing a bladder control pad as a backup is a great strategy for managing leaks.

Growing a human being inside of you is going to cause a lot of physical and hormonal changes that you may or may not expect. However, one thing you can expect is to have options to make those pesky leaks a little more bearable!

What are you currently doing about leaks? Tell us about it in the comments!


This Post was brought to you by Lily Bird

Lily Bird is for all women with leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas. We squeeze when we sneeze and drip when we jump. And we think it's high time we stop saying sorry for the spritz. We provide a hassle-free monthly subscription service for bladder leak products as well as free tips and tricks for women to take control of leaks via The Chirp.

Patient Perspective: Alice's Story

Alice's Story - Standing up to bladder leaks

It’s a funny thing, aging. I’m 68 years old, but I don’t feel any different than I did at 20. It happens so gradually really, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere. One day, you’re sitting there with your whole life ahead of you, and then suddenly, you’re walking along, you glance at your reflection and you see an old woman looking back at you. But you don’t feel any different. At least I didn’t. Until I started having bladder leaks.

My bladder leaks crept up on me just like getting old did. I had a few accidents here and there after kids, but didn’t start really noticing them regularly until I was in my late 50’s. I told myself I was too young to have this problem; that they weren’t that big of a deal and that I could manage it on my own.

The truth is, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know about my leakage problem. I hid it well, or so I thought, but after a while, it started to weigh on me. Always packing a spare change of clothes, always scouting out the nearest bathroom in case of an emergency. It wasn’t until my daughter finally confronted me that I broke down.

I was visiting her at her house when I had an accident and had to change my pants. My daughter noticed and finally decided that enough was enough. She told me how she had watched me for years try to “hide” my problem, and urged me to get help. She also told me how she herself had talked with her doctor after her son was born and she had started experiencing leaks too. “The good news,” she said, “is that I’m doing so much better, and I hardly have any leaks at all anymore. I want that for you too, Mom.”

Talking to my daughter really opened up my eyes. She was right, and I couldn’t believe I had spent so long trying to hide the issue. Worse, I couldn’t believe she had gone through it too. If I had been open about it, maybe I could have offered some comfort to her, but instead she had had to deal with it on her own. I felt ashamed and embarrassed – not because of my bladder leaks, but because of my silence.

So, I decided to finally get help. After so many years of living with the problem, I didn’t realize how much it had taken over my life. And now that I’ve started taking medication for my bladder leaks, I am so much happier and freer.

I am 68, but the 20 year old still lives inside of me. And now, I can proudly say that I feel just as good today as I did back then.

Don’t wait to get help. Take the initiative to talk to your doctor and get the help you need. We can’t all do this alone and life is too short to let a day go by where this condition is controlling you. Suck up your pride, realize that we all need some help once in a while and just do it. I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did.

Alice B., San Jose, CA

Patient Perspective: Audra's Story

Audra's Story of Living With Bladder Leaks

It took me 8 years to talk to my doctor about my bladder leaks. Allow me to let that sink in for a moment – EIGHT YEARS!!  

Think about how much happens during a span of eight years. For me, I had 2 children, switched jobs once, and had a cross country move in the middle of it all.

You’d think that with all of those life changes I’d be able to address something as simple as bladder leaks. I had a million and one reasons why I put it off for so long:  “It will heal after I recover from childbirth.” “It’s not so bad that I can’t manage it.” “I can just wear a pad.” “I’ll just bring along an extra set of clothes with me in the car just in case.” “I’m usually near a bathroom so should be able to make it most of the time.”

On and on the excuses went. But as the years went by, I got sick of just “dealing with it.” I finally made an appointment with my doctor and felt silly when I told him how long I had been suffering (needlessly).  He first set me up with a Physical Therapist to work on strengthening my pelvic floor, and also prescribed me a medication to take. The PT helped me a lot and after nearly 6 months of regular therapy, I was able to quit the medication all together. Now I just go for regular check ups, but keep up the exercises at home on my own.

I feel stronger and leak free, but most of all, I feel in control of my own life again. I’ll never let something like the fear of embarrassment prevent me from getting the medical attention I need again. 

Audra S., Missoula, MT

Ask The Expert: How Do I Talk With My Husband About His Incontinence?

How Do I Talk With My Husband About His Incontinence

Question:  My husband of 47 years has recently started experiencing incontinent episodes. He’s a very proud man and doesn’t want to admit them to me, but it’s starting to become a problem due to the increased laundry, smell and his overall depressed attitude about it. How can I get him to open up and talk with me about it?

 

Answer:  This is a common problem in marriages, especially pertaining to men. Most men don’t want to admit they have a problem with bladder control. They feel ashamed, and hate the idea of wearing protection. He may never come out and admit it to you on his own, so here are some tips to broach the subject with him:

1. Make him feel comfortable.

As you’ve already figured out, incontinence is a very uncomfortable subject for your husband. Make him feel at ease and approach him about his bladder leakage in a way that is not threatening or accusatory. Find some neutral territory and talk to him at a time when he feels good. Don’t try to broach this subject right after he’s had an accident.  That will only make him feel more embarrassed and ashamed.

2. Show him that you are understanding and want to help him with his bladder leakage.

Before you talk with him, do a little research on incontinence and learn what may be causing the issue. Did he just have prostate surgery? Is there something else that has changed recently that could be contributing to his accidents? Read about the causes, and the many different treatment options and management strategies for bladder leakage. Show him that there are ways to manage the condition and that he doesn’t have to just live with it. Let him know that you care about him and want to help. Show him that you are a team so that he doesn’t feel so alone.

3. Encourage him to seek treatment for his incontinence.

Incontinence can often be a symptom of an underlying condition. Let your husband know that you want him to talk with a doctor to make sure that there is nothing serious going on, and to help him get the problem under control. He may be resistant to speaking with his doctor, but press on (slowly). The sooner he confronts his incontinence with a professional, the sooner he can begin treatment and start feeling like himself again. (Find a specialist in your area with our Specialist Locator.)

4. Be his advocate for care.

Because your husband is so embarrassed about his incontinence, you may need to be his voice when seeking out treatment options. Help him research incontinence so that you both can learn more about it. Write out questions that he can bring with him to the doctors office to ensure he doesn’t forget anything important. Be sure to voice any concerns over treatment options. And help him stay the course on his path to treatment.

5. Introduce him to the NAFC message boards.

The NAFC message boards are a great place for your husband to explore and ask questions – anonymously! There are many people on the boards who may be experiencing the same things he is who he can talk to. Plus, with so many people dealing with incontinence in the same spot, there are lots of learnings and tips he may be able to pull from to help his own situation. (As an aside, the message boards may also be a great spot for you to do some research too.  Talk with other caregivers to get some ideas. Or ask other men living with incontinence how you might be able to best approach your husband about the topic.)

It’s never easy talking about incontinence to a loved one – especially men. But by being a caring and supportive spouse, you’ll show your husband that you are in his corner, and that you are there to help. Good luck!

Tips For Managing Bladder Leaks When Traveling

Managing Bladder Leaks When Traveling

For the more than 25 million Americans with bladder control loss, leaving their comfort zone can be a daunting thought. It doesn’t have to be this way. With preparation and the right know-how, the anxious and uncomfortable feelings can be eliminated.

Imagine forgoing a golfing trip with your buddies or missing your favorite niece’s graduation because you will be in a situation where there may not be restrooms in sight. This is what many people with urinary incontinence and overactive bladder do. There are steps to take before your trip so that you are prepared for these situations.

First you should know how the medications you are taking affect your bladder function and body by asking your doctor about medications to help control urinary incontinence. Be aware that you will need to begin to take these medications weeks before your trip. Many people think of these medications as event management—take a pill when going out. But these medications need to be in the system for a couple of weeks for them to take effect. It is also helpful to get acclimated to the effects of a new medication, such as dry mouth or constipation, so that you can find ways to manage these side effects before going out of town.

Map out public restrooms in the city you are traveling to. There are online tools, mobile phone applications, and books devoted to this. 

Pack management tools. Absorbent products can be helpful in situations when loss of urine and bowel control is unpredictable. Pads, briefs, and absorbent underwear should be chosen for absorbency, comfort and fit. Visit the absorbent product section of NAFC’s website for more information.

Think about the travel it takes to arrive at your destination. While traveling you want to make it easy as possible to get to a restroom. If you’re traveling by airplane, get an aisle seat. And be sure to go to the bathroom before the drink cart heads down the aisle. You can also use online tools, such as Google Maps, to find rest stops along your driving routes, if you are traveling by car. Not every car on a passenger train has a restroom; perhaps you need to consider upgrading to business class or ask the reservation clerk for a seat closest to the toilet. And public toilets are often lacking supplies. Always have hand sanitizer, wipes, and pocket tissue handy.

While on vacation pay attention to what you are eating and drinking. Diet can have a profound effect on your voiding patterns. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. These are known bladder irritants. Make sure you drink plenty of water. Many people who have bladder control problems reduce the amount of liquids they drink in the hope that they will need to urinate less often. Some fail to hydrate as they would like simply because they are in unfamiliar areas without beverages frequently accessible. While less liquid through the mouth does result in less liquid in the form of urine, the smaller amount of urine may be more highly concentrated and, thus, irritating to the bladder surface. Highly concentrated (dark yellow, strong-smelling) urine may cause you to go to the bathroom more frequently, and it encourages growth of bacteria.

Do not let your bladder control your life. If you are experiencing bladder control loss and you haven’t spoken to your doctor or healthcare provider about it you need to do so now. Help is available for everyone. More and more new treatments are successfully used for all types of incontinence. Improvement begins with you and continues through active participation in your treatment program.

OAB - What it is and how you know you have it.

How To Know If you Have Overactive Bladder

We’re sure you’ve heard the term OAB tossed around out there – after all, an estimated 33 Americans deal with the condition and there are countless remedies and medications for it available on the market.  But what exactly is it?  Simply put, OAB, or Overactive Bladder, is a sudden, frequent urge to urinate immediately.   It often comes with little warning and usually leaves a person rushing to the restroom in order to make it on time.

So, why does this happen?  In people with OAB, the bladder muscles contract more frequently than normal, sending a signal to the brain that it’s time to urinate.  These contractions may be happening for a number of reasons; side effects from medications, urinary tract infections, pregnancy, neurological diseases like MS or Parkinson’s, problems with the prostate in men, or nerve damage from surgery or injury all can contribute to OAB.

Answer the following questions to see if you may be suffering from OAB:

Do you feel like you’re using the restroom all the time?  Most people don’t use the restroom more than 8 times during the day.  If you find yourself going more frequently, and if those trips result in no more than a few drops of urine, you may have OAB.

Do you feel sudden urges to go with little or no warning?  That feeling that you have to go right now is one of the most common symptoms of OAB.

Do you wake up more than twice a night to use the restroom?  If so, you may be suffering from nocturia – the need to frequently urinate at night, and a common symptom of OAB.

Do you worry about having accidents?  If these rushed trips to the bathroom result in a bit (or a lot) of leakage, it’s likely OAB.  Urge Incontinence is very common with OAB, and is when the urgent need to go results in leaked urine.

Do you try to map out the nearest restroom at social situations?  Do you avoid doing things you once loved for fear of finding yourself in an embarrassing situation?  If you’re adjusting your lifestyle around the potential for accidents, you may have OAB.

Luckily, there are several remedies for OAB ranging from physical exercise to medications, and even certain medical procedures.  Use the NAFC OAB Treatment Tracker to learn about which treatment options might work well for you and then talk to your doctor about your condition so that he or she can find one that works best for you.

Why You Should Not Be Afraid To See A Physical Therapist For Your Incontinence

Don't Be Afraid To See A Physical Therapist For Incontinence

I’m 38 years old, and I have a prolapsed bladder.  I discovered it after the birth of my first son, and needless to say, it was alarming.  I hadn’t even realized something like this could happen, yet there I was, 6 weeks post-partum at my doctor’s office, with him confirming that, yep, I had a stage 2 cystocele.  I was devastated.  What did this mean?  How would I be able to keep up with my son?  Would it affect me having another child?  Would I experience incontinence because of this?

Determined not to let this problem control my life, I sought out the help of a physical therapist specialized in women’s health.  (Yes, these people exist!)  I’m sure that I was nervous before my appointment, but I shouldn’t have been.  Looking back, all I remember is the understanding, help and wonderful instruction my therapist provided me during this time.  She walked me through my own anatomy, showed me how my muscles all work together to support the pelvic floor, and taught me moves that I could do on my own to help “strengthen things up down there”.  She was my teacher and my cheerleader, who gave me encouragement when I needed it most and helped push me to work hard to see improvements.

And I did improve.  Partly from just the natural recovery process after giving birth, but also due to the help from my weekly sessions with my PT.  Through her I have a much greater understanding of how my pelvic floor and supporting muscles work together and how to keep them strong.  Although I still do have a prolapse (it will never really go away), due to regular exercise that I learned from my PT, it rarely bothers me and I do not experience any incontinence.  I’ve even started running again! 

What I’d like you to take away from my story is this:  If you are experiencing some type of incontinence – no matter what the cause – a trained Physical Therapist can help you.  The exercises and moves that they will teach you may help you alleviate many of the symptoms you experience, and, regardless of treatment, truly should be a part of any plan – whether you are managing with medication, absorbent pads, or even thinking about surgery in the future. 

BE STRONG!  Take control of your life!  Don’t let a prolapse or your incontinence dictate how you live. 

Ready to take the plunge but need help finding a Physical Therapist?  Check out the NAFC Specialist Locator and make your appointment today!