Almost any woman has probably had a moment at some time in her life when she laughed too hard, or perhaps drank a little too much alcohol and really, really had to go to the bathroom. But as pregnant women know, that baby pressing against your bladder makes you have to go to the bathroom often, and it's quite common to have leaking or incontinence issues after your baby is born as well. And while we know it's not a sexy topic, it's a big (often embarrassing) problem for many women.
So you don't feel alone in this, we asked real women to share their leaking stories, and boy, did they have a lot to share. Read on for their anecdotes and get tips from Katharine O'Dell, CNM, PhD, associate professor of Ob-Gyn at UMass Memorial Medical Center who specializes in Urogynecology.
A Shared Experience: "I went to an exercise class made up of all moms, we were doing a bunch of jumps and slowly but surely the whole room began to smell like urine. I think every mom in there had some leakage." says Jessica K. on Facebook
The Active Leaker: "I've actually gained weight because of this problem. It doesn't matter if I sneeze, cough, hiccup, try to run or even do yoga, I leak. It's embarrassing. No jumping jacks or Zumba for me because well, let's face it, I fill the Poise pads I have to wear. It's so discouraging when you're trying to lose weight. Not to mention the cost of having to buy these things every couple of weeks." – MS
Incontinence While Running: "After baby number one, I was never able to go on a run without issues. I saw a physical therapist, but really the only thing that helped (though didn't totally cure it) was to stay hydrated. Concentrated urine, I learned, irritates a bladder leading to more issues. I miss running. Things got better, surprisingly, when I got pregnant again, and through the first few weeks after giving birth, even. But lately (as I've gotten sloppy with hydration, and excited about coffee and alcohol again) there have been a few incidents." – Susan Richmond*
Leaking While Jumping: "Ugh! I think this is completely the worst side effect of pregnancy! After I had my second child, I decided to get back into shape by doing karate with my son. It wasn't until my first class when I had to do jumping jacks that I realized that I would leak every time I jumped! So now, every time I go to karate, I make sure I go to the bathroom at least twice to make sure my bladder is empty. I also wear a panty liner and I wear thick biker shorts to make sure I don't leak onto my white pants!" – Jessica Hensley
A Social Situation: "The worst was when I peed my pants in front of 10 of my friends. I was the only one who had a kid at that time and it was just a few months after she was born and we were drinking alcohol. They didn't understand that when they kept making me laugh and I said, 'Stop, or I'll pee my pants!' that I actually would do it. Luckily, I had an extra pair of pants to change into. This was seven years ago and they still make fun of me for it, but they're a bit more understanding since they have kids of their own. Now I wear Poise pads if I'm likely to be drinking alcohol and laughing." - Kelly Jones
Triggered by Laughter: "When I sneeze or laugh, I tinkle and may not being able to hold it in long enough to make it to the bathroom from time to time. It runs in my family—my mom has the same thing as does my aunt. Although none of us had this issue prior to pregnancy, it gets worse with each baby. They have both had surgeries to deal with it, so that's likely in my future. Despite all of this, I still don't feel motivated to do my Kegels." – Marie Smith*
If your incontinence doesn't go away three months after your baby's birth, Dr. O'Dell recommends the following:
1. If you don't have pain, do Kegel exercises each day and make sure you're doing them correctly—the action is up and in.
2. Try going to a physical therapist and getting a customized rehab program to strengthen those pelvic floor muscles.
3. Make lifestyle adjustments so your bladder works better, like decreasing coffee consumption, changing the amount of water you drink, and don't put off going to the bathroom for more than three to four hours.