5 Tips To Reduce Postnatal Incontinence

by | Jun 15, 2018

New motherhood comes with its share of ups and downs. Changes down there can come as a real shock to new and first-time mums. Research shows that one in three women who have ever had a baby will wet themselves, and unfortunately many mothers accept this as their new normal. Thankfully, bladder control problems can be fixed in at least 84 percent of women. Here are my top five tips to give you back control of your pelvic floor.

1. Do your pelvic floor exercises

Pregnancy and birth create a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles, which can leave them weakened and overstretched. To find your pelvic floor muscles, think about the muscles that squeeze and lift when you try to stop the flow of your urine, and engage those.

Many mothers experience stress incontinence, which is bladder accidents when coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting. It is important to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles just before these stress-inducing activities. Coordination of your pelvic floor muscles with breathing is key – try this pelvic floor coordination exercise.

  • Breathe in.
  • Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor. Hold as you breathe out.
  • Relax your pelvic floor and breathe in.
  • Repeat 10 times.

For some women basic pelvic floor exercises are not enough. The pelvic floor muscles need to be integrated into other exercise regimes and into your daily acts of living. A pelvic floor program with functional exercise is essential for long-term control of your bladder and bowels.

RELATED: 5 Tips For Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor Post-Baby

2. Fix constipation

One of the biggest complaints pregnant women have is constipation, and unfortunately this can linger after birth in some women. If a woman has had significant tearing at birth, this can worsen constipation, and in some cases bring on bowel control problems.

Addressing constipation means less pressure on the pelvic organs and pelvic floor muscles. Women with constipation should drink plenty of fluids, eat more leafy green and colourful vegetables, identify and remove food sensitivities such as FODMAPs and perform regular exercise. Sitting on the toilet with the feet elevated on a stool can also help to relax the pelvic floor muscles and allow for easier bowel emptying.

3. Check for pelvic organ prolapse

30-50% of first-time mums will develop a prolapse, which is when one or more of your pelvic organs sag down lower in your pelvis. This can be one of the root causes of postnatal incontinence. Symptoms of prolapse include bladder or bowel control problems, heaviness or dragging sensations, lower back or lower abdominal pain, incomplete emptying or a visible bulge down there.

See a women’s health physiotherapist who can check if you have a prolapse, which prolapse you have, the severity of the prolapse, and can even fit you for a support device called a pessary to help lift your organs back up, so that it doesn’t worsen over time. Mums who have given birth vaginally and who have had a c-section can develop prolapse.

RELATED: 2 Out Of 3 Women Will Develop This Condition They’re Too Embarrassed To Talk About

4. Keep away from bladder irritants

If you feel like you’re always busting to go to the bathroom, and sometimes not making it in time, then you may have an overactive bladder or urge urinary incontinence. In these cases, keeping away from common bladder irritants can help. These include things like caffeine, artificial sweeteners and carbonated drinks – so that’s a huge no on the Diet Coke!

Seeing a women’s health physiotherapist can also be helpful to identify your urgency triggers, teach you urge suppression strategies and get you on a bladder drill program to eliminate the urgency and incontinence. Sometimes the urgency can be due to a prolapse, so identifying this early is crucial.

5. Speak to a doctor about vaginal oestrogen

In the postpartum period, pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones are surging in your body. The breastfeeding hormone, prolactin, inhibits the production of oestrogen, which contributes to the loose and dry feelings down there. If you notice pain, dryness or skin tears down there, especially with sex, consider speaking to your GP about vaginal oestrogen cream. This can help create more tautness vaginally, and can help improve incontinence.

While postnatal incontinence is extremely common, it is not normal. With a few exercise, diet and lifestyle changes, women can be cured. You don’t have to put up with it, and you can get back control.

Heba Shaheed is co-founder and CEO of The Pelvic Expert, a digital wellbeing platform specialising in maternal, menstrual and hormone health. Heba is the host of the World’s Largest Online Pregnancy & Motherhood Summit, taking place in September. The Pelvic Expert provides holistic and research-based, women-focussed, online wellbeing programs to corporates, private health insurers, workplaces and individuals.


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Women Fleeing Domestic Violence Can Now Receive A One-Off Support Payment

It’s been labelled the shadow pandemic and the fact remains that for many women across Australia, domestic violence is a lived reality that doesn’t discriminate by age, occupation, or socio-economic status. Researchers have found that during Covid-19 lockdowns, there was a surge in family and domestic violence, with agencies experiencing a surge in demand as nearly half their clients reported an increase in controlling behaviours. 

As many who have lived through such turmoil and trauma can attest, the roadmap to fleeing such situations at home can be fraught with challenges and extremely difficult to navigate, particularly when such bureaucracy makes it even harder. Now, it’s been announced that women fleeing a violent relationship will be given a one-off $5,000 payment as part of a federal government trial scheme. 

Known as the “escaping violence payment scheme,” the government has set aside $144.5 million over the next two years to give women $1,500 cash, with the remainder to pay for goods and services, bond, school fees and other necessaries to establish a new safe home. UnitingCare Network will be tasked with delivering the payments while helping link women and their children with relevant community services. 

As the Daily Telegraph reports, “An analysis of domestic violence data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that while it is more common for women from poorer areas, women from high socio-economic areas are not immune from experiencing partner violence.”

As Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston explained, the trial has been introduced with the aim to help women overcome the financial barriers that might deter them from leaving a violent relationship. “We know that financial hardship as well as economic abuse - which may involve interfering with work or controlling or withholding money - reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships,” she said. 

“The payments will assist people who need financial support to leave. We know the size of the house a woman is fleeing doesn’t matter. Often she bundles the kids into the car, maybe the dog too and they leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”

To be eligible for a payment, women must be facing financial stress and have some evidence of domestic violence such as a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, or an AVO, court order or police report. As UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said, “We believe that all people, especially women and their children, have the right to live freely and without fear, and this payment is an important step forward to ending violence against women and children.”

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

If you’d like to speak to someone about domestic violence, please call the 1800 

Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online. 

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.