Leaking Urine During Pregnancy: Causes and Coping Methods

Leaking urine is a common hazard for many pregnant women. However, the problem is worse for some than others. Urinary incontinence or involuntary passage of some urine happens occasionally in many women, and more frequently in others. A woman's body mass index and age are some of the known risk factors of incontinence during pregnancy.

Why Do You Leak Urine During Pregnancy?

Whether or not you have had urine leakage problems before, you can notice some leakage during the third trimester. It can be triggered by:

  • Lifting something
  • A simple shifting of position
  • Laughing
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Exercising

Your uterus expands as your baby grows. This causes an increase in pressure against other internal organs such as the bladder. Leaking urine during pregnancy is termed as stress incontinence.

Your baby's movements, including kicking and stretching can also cause your bladder to contract and in the process leak urine. Sexual intercourse when you are pregnant can also lead to bladder leaks. Leakage may also occur due to hormonal changes.

For those who have been pregnant multiple times, urine leakage may start earlier in pregnancy. This may happen due to cumulative weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Multiple vaginal births, tearing and large baby sizes are additional contributing factors.

An overactive bladder can also cause urine leakage during pregnancy. If your bladder is overactive, you will tend to urinate more frequently than normal. This happens due to uncontrollable spasms of the muscles surrounding the urinary tube (urethra). The result is that any strong bladder contraction sets off the urge to urinate more often than usual.

Studies show that women from families with history of incontinence, those who gain more weight than normal during pregnancy or have a higher body mass index than normal, and those who are more than 35 when they get pregnant, have an increased risk of urine leakage during pregnancy.

Do You Need to Worry About the Urine Leaking?

Incontinence during pregnancy is normal and usually temporary. But don't make assumptions; rather, confirm it is actual urine leakage. You can do this by a quick smell test. In case the leaking liquid is clear and odorless, there is a chance that your amniotic fluid could be leaking. Contact your doctor immediately. Once you confirm that you are leaking urine during pregnancy, let your doctor know the next time you visit and ask for recommendation.

Serious Implications

Although urine leakage during pregnancy is usually a result of stress incontinence, in some cases it can be a symptom of serious complications. In case you leak urine, and you are persistently thirsty and have a constant urge to visit the bathroom, it could signify gestational diabetes. You need to inform your physician, so he/she can have a test done.

In some cases, urine leaks can lead to identification of other conditions, including pregnancy-related issues. You should also contact your doctor if your urinary incontinence during pregnancy is accompanied by the following:

  • Tingling or burning sensation at the time of the leaks
  • Leaking or urge to go to the bathroom soon after coming out of the bathroom
  • An unusual, strong odor
  • Blood in your urine
  • A dark yellow or orange color in the leaked urine
  • A feeling that your water broke and you are not having a urine leak

How to Cope with Urinary Incontinence During Pregnancy

1. Behavioral Methods

Some techniques exist that you can use to deal with leaking urine during pregnancy. Behavioral methods include bladder training which involves following a certain urinating time-frame or schedule. Following are sample bladder training schedules:

  • Using a journal or chart, note the times when you urinate and times when you get involuntary urine leakage. In most cases, a pattern of leakage will become apparent. Visit the bathroom at these times so that you avert the leakage.
  • Deliberately keep away from going to urinate for a period of time, e.g., decide to go to the bathroom only once per hour. Stick to this schedule for some time; then adjust this so that you go to the bathroom once in 1 - 1½ hours. Next, push the intervals to once in two hours. After some more time, push this up to 3 or 4 hours.
  • At the first urge to visit the restroom, try to relax and delay the visit for 15 minutes. Continue with this approach for around two weeks before raising the delay time to 30 minutes. Continue working this up steadily.

As you will realize, provided you have commitment to the management schedule, you can improve the condition of urinary incontinence!

2. Kegel Exercises

You can use Kegel exercises to take control of urinary incontinence. These exercises work your pelvic floor muscles, stretching and strengthening them so that you have better control of them. The best time to do Kegel exercises is when your bladder is empty so that you don’t accidentally pee on yourself. Kegel exercises involve alternatively tightening and releasing the pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds each. Do this for 10 times per session, two to three sessions per day.

3. Absorbent Pads

When your bladder leaks, whether this is occasional or frequent, it’s a good habit to wear a pad or panty liner. This will save you from odors and wet spots. The pads and panty liners are similar to ordinary sanitary pads. They are, however, designed for urine absorption. Carry spare pads when traveling or spending time in public.

4. Hydration

While the temptation to drink less water may come, don’t heed it. Experts recommend that you stick to pregnancy diet guidelines, including drinking about eight glasses of water per day. Remember that dehydration may lead to nausea, pregnancy headaches, vomiting and premature labor. Instead of reducing water and healthy fluid intake, keep away from diuretics such as caffeine.

Will the Problem Continue After Pregnancy?

Carrying a pregnancy and eventually going through with vaginal delivery stretch pelvic muscles. This weakens them and is one of the risk factors for leaking urine during pregnancy and even later.

Recent studies involving pregnant women found that close to 62 percent of them suffered urine leaks during pregnancy. 50 percent of them continued to have incontinence issues even after childbirth. The study also found that women who didn’t suffer urine leakage when they were pregnant had a reduced risk of incontinence after birth, compared to those who had incontinence at some point during pregnancy.

However, most women who had bladder leakage during pregnancy, got out of it one to three months after delivering. Regular Kegel exercises can help you get out of the incontinence problem.

In case urine leakage continues, consult your healthcare provider for advice. Various treatment options exist. The main ones include:

  • Medication
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Biofeedback
  • Behavior therapies
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Surgery