Motherhood can be the most rewarding yet challenging chapter of a woman’s life. While it’s considered a gift, there are also physical changes that women’s bodies go through that affect the health and quality of life post-birth. One symptom that new moms or older women that have given birth in the past commonly experience are light bladder leaks whenever the bladder is put under “stress” or pressure. This condition is called Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI. So what exactly is SUI, how does it impact moms, and what are the solutions?
What are Light Bladder Leaks?
As mentioned before, if you’re experiencing involuntary leaks when performing activities like running or jumping or even coughing and laughing, you may be suffering from SUI. Stress incontinence occurs due to the damage or weakening of the pelvic floor muscles and surrounding tissues that can either lead to a urethral shift under pressure or intrinsic sphincteric deficiency (ISD), wherein which your sphincter doesn’t seal off effectively at your bladder. It’s possible (and likely) to have both, researchers believe that most women that experience SUI have a little bit of ISD. There could be a number of causes for experiencing light bladder leaks including:
- Age: As our bodies age, our muscles begin to weaken and lose mass and flexibility, including our pelvic floor muscles. In addition, cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s have been linked to various forms of incontinence, including stress.
- Weight: People that are overweight or obese add more pressure to the urinary tract and pelvic floor muscles which may cause long-term damage or weaken them over time.
- Smoking: Smokers with a chronic cough can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. Cigarettes and tobacco products have also been linked to bladder cancer.
- High-impact activity: Runners, lifters, cyclists, and other high-impact athletes may be at a higher risk for suffering from light bladder leaks as the repeated impact can damage and weaken pelvic floor muscles over years of training.
- Past surgeries: Surgical procedures that directly involve the pelvic floor or surrounding nerves and tissue may cause leaks post-procedure. The most common procedure that women experience SUI after is a hysterectomy.
Motherhood and SUI
In addition to the aforementioned health and lifestyle risk factors that can contribute to developing light bladder leaks, becoming a mother is also a common risk factor. This is due to the trauma and anatomical shifting that occurs during pregnancy and delivery of a baby. While this is a commonly overlooked side-effect of having a baby, it can have a serious impact on a woman’s self-esteem and relationships when she is at her most vulnerable. Women that experience the occasional leak often isolate themselves to avoid social obligations that may end in an embarrassing moment and cleanup. Plus, urinary incontinence is not exactly dinner party conversation either, making women feel alone in their symptoms and experiences because they feel it’s taboo to share them. Psychotherapists suggest that after a baby, what new moms need the most is support and love from family and friends, and suffering from SUI may force new mothers to do the opposite.
There are several options for women that are experiencing leaks. It’s important to discuss options with your doctor, especially as a new mom, to make sure that you’re choosing what is the best and most effective for your healing body.
Pads and Liners: Disposable pads and liners made specifically to absorb urine quickly and discreetly. Unfortunately, these products cannot be worn for long after use and are often made of nonbiodegradable materials that impact our environment.
Incontinence Garments: Meant to absorb and hide leaks like pads and liners, but as a whole garment, as opposed to a small addition to regular underwear. There are disposable and reusable options available in a variety of shapes, colors, and patterns.
Surgery: Some women choose to have a pelvic sling procedure to correct a weakened or damaged urinary tract. Recently, however, the FDA ordered manufacturers of pelvic mesh to stop production and sale of their products until they are guaranteed safe to use.
Kegels: Pelvic floor muscles exercises, sometimes called Kegels, are another common way that women can help reduce leaks. There are various tutorials and tools to help women engage and strengthen the right muscles.
Post-baby it is important to listen to your body while it recovers from childbirth. While urinary incontinence is embarrassing and annoying, pushing to find solutions too quickly can cause more damage.
Mothers that have been healed for three months have another solution as well. Revive™ is the revolutionary new bladder support device for women that is made to be effective, safe, and comfortable. The one size fits most design is FDA-cleared to be used without a prescription and can be inserted by the user at home. Once inserted, Revive is designed to reduce bladder leaks for up to 12 hours a day. Once done, the device is easy to remove, clean, and reuse, saving you money and the environment from harmful waste. Available at retailers nationwide!