|Author: Abraham (Nick) Morse, MD, MBA
Pregnancy can be a joyful and a stressful time all at once! The ability of a woman’s body to adapt to the incredible demands of a growing baby is breathtaking. However, particularly as the end of pregnancy approaches, the ability of the body to adapt can still be overwhelming. Did you know that urinary and bowel incontinence are both surprisingly common as the end of pregnancy approaches? These experiences may not be ones that all pregnant women are willing to share with their family or friends but it is important to know that if you are experiencing problems with bowel or bladder control you are not alone.
Reports from all over the world on this topic documents that on average 30 to 40 percent of women in the third trimester experience at least occasional urinary incontinence and anywhere from 5 to 10 percent experience occasional leakage of stool. For the vast majority of these women (who have a lot of other things to pay attention to) these leakage episodes were rated as a minor bother, but for a small percentage (less than 10 percentage) the problem was described as significantly disruptive to their quality of life.
Does the problem go away after delivery? As you would expect, the answer is: sometimes. But there will be more discussion about that in a separate post.
One thing that you can do to help improve the health of your pelvic floor and reduce the impact of bladder and bowel leakage is to do your pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) daily during pregnancy. If you don’t know how to do these key pelvic floor muscle contractions, or you are not sure whether you are doing them correctly ask your obstetric provider to check and see how you are doing.
If problems with bowel or bladder control are becoming significantly disruptive, then don’t hesitate to ask your obstetric provider for support and suggestions. Even though some interventions would not be appropriate during pregnancy, there are still ways of helping with the problem. Your obstetrician or midwife may consider referring you to a urogynecologist-a specialist in female pelvic floor problems such as urinary and bowel incontinence.