How does pregnancy contribute to urinary incontinence?

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Jill Rabin
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

You might expect some leakage during pregnancy as the uterus enlarges and puts increased pressure on the bladder. Why? The bladder and pelvis undergo changes during pregnancy to accommodate the growing fetus and the mother. The bladder may not empty as well because of pressure from the enlarging uterus or fetus, which may lead to an increase in the amount of urine left in the bladder after urinating. This remaining urine may be the perfect environment for bacterial growth, which may cause the increased occurrence of urinary tract infections during pregnancy. There is also an increase in the amount of urine produced by the kidneys. As a result, pregnant women have to urinate more frequently.

Several hormones produced during pregnancy (especially estrogen and progesterone) cause relaxation in pelvic tissues and organs, including the bladder and ureters (tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder). This relaxation is helpful because it allows the pelvis to become more flexible and to make room for that baby; however, it may also lead to incomplete bladder emptying and urinary tract infections (UTIs). In addition to this, pregnancy and delivery may also cause nerve damage to the pelvic muscles, which may not heal completely and which may cause subsequent problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.