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Bladder and bowel incontinence during pregnancy and after having a baby

Explanation of common symptoms/ problems

It is quite common to experience incontinence during pregnancy and after having a baby.

  • 40-50% of women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy (from week 14 of pregnancy until delivery) and immediately after birth have urinary leakage.
  • 25% of pregnant women can also have anal incontinence.
  • 10% of women have problems with anal incontinence after birth.

The symptoms can be very distressing and make it difficult for you in all sorts of situations such as; at work, going out shopping, exercising and caring for your baby. You do not have to ‘put up’ with these symptoms. There are things that you can do to improve and even prevent them and there are Health Care Professionals who can help. This web page will explain what to do and signpost you to the right help.

Urinary incontinence, urgency and bowel urgency and anal incontinence can happen during pregnancy because as your womb and baby get bigger and weigh more, they put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.

As these muscles stretch, they can weaken and not work so well. It is the job of the pelvic floor muscles to:

  • Support the bladder, uterus and bowel
  • Close the urethra and anus to prevent leak of urine or stool
  • Allow urine and stool to pass when you want to
  • Help with pleasure during sexual intercourse


If you have a vaginal birth the pelvic floor muscles also have to stretch a lot for you to deliver your baby. After the birth the nerves that make the pelvic floor muscles work may not be doing this so well and mean that your muscles feel weak.


Self help / Advice

  • Start by exercising your pelvic floor muscles as soon as you can during pregnancy. This can really help to improve and even prevent incontinence.
  • Good Bowel Health
  • If you have the urgent need to rush and pass either urine or stool, try to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles at this time for 10 seconds. This can help to control the urge and prevent leakage.
  • Make sure that you empty your bladder and bowels well. Try to take your time and relax on the toilet. Sometimes gently rocking backwards and forwards or putting a bit of pressure on your lower tummy with your hand can help to fully empty the bladder.


Where to go to next

It is important to get help with incontinence. Speak with your midwife/ GP in the first instance. They should advise you to see a pelvic health specialist physiotherapist who is trained to treat bladder and bowel incontinence.

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What to expect from physiotherapy

Pelvic Health physiotherapists who see people with bladder or bowel problems have had very specialist training and they are used to treating people who have these problems. They will carry out a thorough assessment to find out why you are getting these symptoms and explain what can be done to help improve them. They will make sure that the treatment is very specific to your symptoms.

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