Managing Overactive Bladder During Pregnancy
Overactive bladder (OAB) is so common among pregnant women that many joke about their frequent bathroom breaks. But having to make a pit stop more than eight times a day, including several times at night, can be more frustrating than funny.
Your baby’s head may be pushing down on your bladder, causing the muscle weakness and scrambled nerve signals that contribute to overactive bladder and incontinence. If this describes your situation, take heart—studies show these symptoms tend to subside after you have your baby. In the meantime, there are ways to control the condition so your bladder doesn’t have the last laugh.
Absorb the overflow.
Pads and other absorbent products can help you manage urine leakage in the short term. Look for a product that fits properly and is comfortable for you. Change it at least once per day to prevent infection and skin irritation.
Get your bladder on a schedule.
You might think of your calendar as a place to note lunch dates, not potty breaks. But making a scheduled rest stop every three hours or so—your doctor can help you determine the best interval for you—can help relieve overactive bladder.
Hit the bathroom at the appointed hour whether you need to or not. Then, each time you feel the urge to urinate off-schedule, try to hold your urine longer. Eventually, you’ll be able to stick to your schedule.
Do your exercises.
Pelvic muscle exercises—also known as Kegels—are one of the best ways to manage any type of urinary problem, including OAB. To do them, squeeze and release the muscles you use to control urine flow for three seconds. Then, relax for three seconds. Work up to three sets of 10 Kegel exercises.
If you haven’t done Kegels before, during your first pregnancy is a great time to start. Your muscles are still at their greatest potential, so strengthening them provides ongoing benefits. However, the moves can help you no matter when you start them. Talk with your doctor or a physical therapist if you have questions about performing them correctly.
Kegels aren’t the only exercise that can help you keep control of your bladder. Aim to do regular cardiovascular and strength-training exercises three days a week for 30 minutes at a time. This level of physical activity reduces incontinence during pregnancy, according to a recent research review.
If you weren’t active before getting pregnant, start with 15 minutes and gradually increase. If you regularly exercised before, you can likely do more. Talk with your doctor about the best way to get and stay active while expecting.
Change your diet.
Your doctor has probably advised you to avoid alcohol and caffeine to protect your baby. Skipping these beverages can also reduce symptoms of OAB. So can cutting back on artificial sweeteners; they can irritate your bladder wall, contributing to the spasms that trigger the feeling of urgency in OAB.
Take medications with care.
Drugs used to treat OAB include darifenacin (Enablex), fesoterodine (Toviaz), oxybutynin (Ditropan), solifenacin (VESIcare), tolterodine (Detrol), trospium (Sanctura), and the Oxytrol patch. However, it’s not clear how they may affect your baby. Work with your doctor to decide whether the benefits outweigh any potential risks for you and your child.
When you’re pregnant, your baby’s head may push down on your bladder, causing overactive bladder and incontinence.
Scheduling your bathroom breaks at set intervals can help control OAB.
Kegel exercises are one of the best ways to manage any type of urinary problem. General cardio and strength-training exercise also helps.
Avoiding artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and caffeine can also reduce symptoms.
These symptoms tend to subside after you give birth, but in the meantime, there are ways to get relief.
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- Can the delivery method influence lower urinary tract symptoms triggered by the first pregnancy? Botelho, S, et al. International Brazilian Journal of Urology. March-April 2012;38(2):267-76.
- Pelvic Floor Muscle Training Program Increases Muscular Contractility During First Pregnancy and Postpartum: Electromyographic Study. Marques, J, et al. Neurology and Urodynamics. Nov. 5, 2012.
- Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Nascimento, SL, et al. Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology. December 2012;24(6):387-94.
- Oxytrol Patch. U.S. National Library of Medicine. January 2011. http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=a162fd5b-b2ab-4d45-8861-71b60b92acb4
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