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Ahh, postpartum bladder leakage (also known as urinary incontinence.) It’s something that no new mom wants to think about or deal with, but unfortunately it’s something that 60% of postpartum women suffer from. Even if your pregnancy and delivery was “uneventful” (all pregnancy’s and deliveries are obviously eventful, but I’m talking no tearing, etc.,) there’s still a 50% chance that you’ll suffer from some amount of postpartum bladder leakage.
I suffered from postpartum bladder leakage after the birth of my son. My pregnancy and delivery were both pretty rough (a story for another day) and I felt like my urinary incontinence was the icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong – TOTALLY worth it. But it was hard to remind myself of that when I tried to go for a run with a friend and ended up completely soaking the pantyliner I was wearing “just in case.”
What Causes Postpartum Bladder Leakage?
There are multiple types of urinary incontinence that can occur postpartum, but the most common is called Stress Incontinence (SI.) SI can occur regardless of whether you gave birth vaginally or via c-section, however, it is more common in women who deliver vaginally.
Think of your bladder as a valve that opens when you decide to pee and stays closed when you’re not peeing. When you’re pregnant, your uterus expands to hold a tiny human, and puts a great deal of pressure on that valve. Additionally, the added pressure on your pelvic floor muscles cause them to weaken, which further increases the likelihood of some amount of bladder leakage.
Then add childbirth (which further weakens your pelvic floor muscles) and you have a recipe for postpartum bladder leakage.
Exercises to Improve Postpartum Bladder Leakage & Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
If you’re soaking pantyliners, frantically crossing your legs whenever you feel a sneeze coming on or trying to not to laugh too hard at cat videos on YouTube lest you pee your pants, you’ll be happy to know that there are a number of exercises that help to improve postpartum bladder leakage.
These exercises will all help to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which will reduce urinary incontinence.
You’ve probably heard of kegels before. Most people find them incredibly boring, but the truth is, boring as they may be, they work.
The first step to performing a kegel exercise is to properly identify your pelvic floor muscles. You can do this by imagining that you’re stopping the flow of urine.
Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, you can start doing kegels. There are two ways to perform kegel exercises – quick flicks and slow contract and release.
Quick flicks are just like what they sound like – simply contract and release your pelvic floor muscles every second for 30 seconds.
A slow contract and release is also very important, and should be done in conjunction with quick flicks. Instead of quickly contracting your pelvic floor muscles, imagine you’re on an elevator. Slowly lift your pelvic floor muscles to the first floor, then the second floor, then the third floor. Then slowly reverse back down, from the third floor, to the second floor, to the first floor.
It’s important to remember that releasing your pelvic floor muscles is just as important as contracting them – don’t rush through the release, try to follow a count of three.
Additionally, when you perform kegel exercises you should not be moving your abdominal muscles, glutes, legs, etc. If you’re performing kegels correctly, nobody should be able to tell you’re doing them, which means you can practice kegels anywhere.
To perform a glute bridge:
- Lay on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground
- Place your arms at your side with your palms facing down
- As you inhale, lift your hips off the ground until your chest, hips and knees form a straight line
- Hold for a few seconds then as you exhale, slowly lower your hips to the ground
- Repeat this 10-15 times
Hip Abductor Roll
For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. It’s important to have a set, so you have different resistance options – here’s a set for cheap on Amazon.
To perform a Hip Abductor Roll:
- Sit on a chair with your feet flat against the ground
- Place a resistance band around your knees
- Inhale, and move your legs outwards, against the resistance band
- As you’re doing this, make sure to keep your belly button pulled towards your spine
- Try to hold your legs apart for 3 seconds, then slowly bring them back together
- Repeat 10 times
A sumo squat can also be referred to as a standing plie. If you took ballet lessons as a child, you’ll be familiar with a plie. Here’s how to perform a standing plie or sumo squat to help reduce postpartum bladder leakage:
- Take a wide stance, and turn your feet so your toes are pointing outwards
- Slowly bend your knees and contract your pelvic floor muscles for a count of 5 seconds
- Now slowly come back up to standing position, while releasing your pelvic floor muscles
- Repeat 10 times
The only thing you’ll need to perform a wall squat is a wall #keepingitsimple. To perform a wall squat:
- Stand with your back against the wall with your feet hip-width apart
- As you inhale, slowly lower your butt as if you’re sitting on a chair
- Come down far enough that your knees are at a 90 degree angle
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, then slowly stand up
- Repeat 10 times
Another Option to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor and Reduce Urinary Incontinence
If you’d like some extra help beyond these exercises, then you might want to give this doctor recommended Intimate Rose Kegel Exercise Set a try. These Kegel exercise weights help strengthen your pelvic muscles for improved bladder control in just 15 minutes a day. While I haven’t personally tried it so can’t speak from experience, it comes highly recommended by a few close friends and is very highly rated on Amazon too.