Changes in Your Bladder and Bowel
- The reality: "About half of all women delivering vaginally suffer temporary incontinence that persists for several months," says Guillermo Davila, MD, urogynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic Florida, in Naples and Weston. For some women, the news is even bleaker: About 25 percent of American women suffer long-term urinary and fecal incontinence and/or serious uterine prolapse (a loosening of the ligaments that elevate the uterus to the point where the uterus drops into the vagina).
- The reason: Most bladder-related problems are caused during vaginal deliveries, when the nerves and muscles of the pelvic floor, including the bladder and anus, are stretched and compressed. The result is nerve and muscle damage, which causes a leaky bladder or bowel.
- The relief: Start squeezing! Kegel exercises are a must during pregnancy and after delivery to help maintain good muscle tone in your pelvic floor.
If your urinary incontinence becomes problematic, a device called a pessary may be used to hold the bladder neck and reduce leakage. Similar to a diaphragm, this doughnut-shaped device is inserted in the vagina and removed as needed. It should not be left in place for longer than six weeks at a time and should be removed once or twice a week for cleaning. In extreme cases, medication or surgery to support the bladder may be needed. With fecal incontinence, the only truly effective options available are Kegels and surgery.