Having a child changes a woman’s body in a multitude of ways but one health aspect that most may not be aware of is how pregnancy affects bladder health. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles are working overtime to support the weight of the baby and provide stability to the hips and pelvis.
Your pelvic floor muscles can struggle with returning to their pre-pregnancy strength due to this extended period of strain, which can lead to difficulties maintaining continence.
Carissa Francisco, PT, DPT, pelvic health physical therapist at Northern Nevada Medical Center tells us shares with us bladder health and how it can change during and after pregnancy.
How does a woman’s bladder change during pregnancy and after having a child?
Your pelvic floor muscles are stretched three times their length during birth and while women are bearing down with great force to push the baby out. Performing the Valsalva maneuver, which is a breathing technique often used during labor, holding your breath, or being in the pushing phase of labor for greater than two hours can leave you at risk for prolapse later in life.
This increased risk is due to the large amounts of pressure being placed on the bladder for prolonged periods of time.
After birth, your body and bladder are still adjusting to the exertion of labor and most women experience diastasis rectus abdominus at 37 weeks of pregnancy. Diastasis rectus abdominus is also known as abdominal separation.
This may persist post-partum and when this occurs, it is difficult to manage intraabdominal pressures. If the condition is not managed, pressure will travel down to the bladder and leave you prone to urinary incontinence when performing activities that increase pressure.
The activities include coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, and jumping.
Warning signs and common diseases related to poor bladder health
Should labor affect the health of your bladder, some warning signs to look out for include urinary incontinence, which is when urine leaks out with activity or urgency, straining to empty your bladder, urinary urgency or frequency, bladder pain, or a heavy feeling in your pelvis or pelvic.
Should you experience any of these symptoms, speak to your medical provider to identify if you are suffering from bladder diseases or similar concerns.
How can women improve their bladder health?
If you are suffering from a bladder-related condition, there are many different exercises and habits that you can adopt to maintain or improve your bladder health.
When lifting items, it can be beneficial to breathe out and kegel, which is to tighten your pelvic floor muscles, to avoid putting excess pressure on the bladder.
An easy and effective way to improve your bladder health is making sure to drink enough water, and it is typically recommended that you drink half your body weight in ounces per day.
For example, you should aim to drink 75 ounces of water every day if you weigh 150 pounds. While this is a general recommendation, it is best to speak to your medical provider to understand what level of water intake is best for you.
While water is a great tool in your journey to improving your bladder health, bladder irritants can worsen your bladder symptoms as they irritate the lining of your bladder.
Bladder irritants include caffeine, carbonated and diet drinks, alcohol, and large amounts of citrus. These should be avoided as they can lead to an urge to urinate to remove irritants from your body.
Another habit that you can adopt to improve your bladder health is taking your time emptying your bladder and avoiding straining when urinating. Straining your bladder when urinating can put unnecessary pressure on your bladder and exacerbate any issues experienced before and during pregnancy and birth.
How can physical therapy support bladder health conditions?
Pelvic health physical therapy can help to address pelvic floor dysfunction to improve symptoms of some of the common bladder diseases and conditions.
When you visit a pelvic health physical therapist, a thorough assessment will be performed to determine the cause of your symptoms. This assessment includes an external orthopedic assessment and an internal assessment of your pelvic floor muscles and bladder.
Based on what is found, a plan of care will be created and tailored to your symptoms to return your bladder back to its pre-pregnancy functionality.
Should you experience bladder issues, first talk with your medical provider to ensure there are no underlying health issues.
If it is determined that physical therapy is a viable pathway to address your symptoms, call 775-386-2244 to schedule an appointment and start your personalized care plan.
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.