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How pregnant women can prevent incontinence after giving birth

Physiotherapist Emily Moore helps women overcome bladder and bowel problems throughout their pregnancy journey.

Women are being encouraged to take steps to maintain and build the strength of their pelvic floor muscles before, during and after their pregnancy in order to curb an onset of incontinence.

Up to one in three women will experience issues with their pelvic floor after having a baby.

Physiotherapist Emily Moore works in Peninsula Health’s Women’s Health Unit and says while for many incontinence is not painful, it can be very debilitating to a person’s way of life.

“Going to the toilet on time is something most of us take for granted, so when that’s taken away from you, it can obviously impact on your quality of life a lot,” says Emily.

She says the best thing women can do during their pregnancy, is to make sure they’re learning about pelvic floor exercises and developing good bowel and bladder habits.

“Pelvic floor exercises are easy to do and can be simply performed anywhere, in fact if you’re doing them properly, no one will even know you’re doing them.

“Often less is more, so you’re not necessarily lifting your bottom or squeezing your bottom cheeks, it’s more subtle and requires you to practice squeezing and lifting around the holes in your pelvic floor.”

Hormonal changes during pregnancy affect soft tissues, which when combined with the growing weight of a baby, places more pressure on a woman’s pelvic floor.

Towards the end of a pregnancy a woman may be carrying eight or nine kilograms of extra weight on their pelvic floor, which can contribute to bladder and bowel problems, Emily says.

This additional weight and the stretching of pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and child birth, can cause muscular weakness causing many women to be at risk of developing incontinence.

“It’s important women don’t think this is a normal part of pregnancy. It is something that can be easily fixed if you seek help early.” says Emily.

“Talk to your midwife who can refer you to us, or seek further advice from your GP or other healthcare professionals.”

World Continence Week 2020 is being marked from the 15 to 22 June, to highlight the impact urinary incontinence can have on lives and encourages those living with it to seek help.

Find out more about continence on The Continence Foundation of Australia’s website and for more information about pelvic floor exercises go to www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au.