Bladder problems during pregnancy and after birth

It is common to experience bladder problems during pregnancy and after having a baby.

Here are some common terms:

  • Urinary incontinence is the accidental leakage of urine (wee).
  • Stress urinary incontinence is the leakage of urine when you increase your intra-abdominal pressure like during a sneeze, cough or exercise.
  • Urinary urgency incontinence is the sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an accidental loss of urine (wee).
  • Bladder urgency is the sudden urge to urinate.
  • Increased frequency is the need to go for a wee more often than normal.

The symptoms can be distressing and can make it difficult to go about your normal routine, but you do not have to put up with these symptoms.  There are things that can be done to improve and prevent them and there are specialist Physiotherapists who can help.

Bladder problems can happen during pregnancy because as your uterus (womb) and baby get bigger and weigh more, they put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles weakening them and making them not work as well.

If you have a vaginal birth the pelvic floor muscles have to stretch by 1.5 to 3 times their normal length so that you can deliver your baby.  After the birth, the nerves that make your pelvic floor muscles work may not be able to do this so well and may mean that your pelvic floor muscles feel weak.

Self help and advice

  • Start exercising your pelvic floor muscles 3 times a day in pregnancy and soon after the birth of your baby.  This should be within 2 weeks of delivery, but you can gently start activating the muscles as soon as you feel comfortable after the birth.
  • Make sure that you have good bowel health.  Drink 2 litres of water a day and eat a healthy diet which includes fresh fruit, vegetables and fibre.
  • Avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks or acidic drinks such as fresh pineapple or orange juice, as these can make urgency symptoms worse. 
  • Avoid constipation and straining as this will put extra pressure on your pelvic floor.  See your GP or pharmacist if you do become constipated during pregnancy or after the birth.
  • If you have an urgent need to rush to the toilet, try and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and then relax them to see if this will control the urge and prevent leakage.
  • Make sure you fully empty your bladder and don’t strain.  Try to take your time and relax on the toilet.  Sometimes rocking backwards and forwards or applying a gentle pressure on your lower tummy with your hand can help you to fully empty the bladder.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

You should do pelvic floor exercises 3 times a day during pregnancy and for 3 months after the birth of your baby.

If you have bladder problems, start pelvic floor exercises before seeing a pelvic health physiotherapist. If you have tried the exercises for 3 months and they don’t seem to be helping, complete the self-referral form or discuss with your healthcare professional for a referral. 

Early postnatal physiotherapy advice leaflet (PDF)

Pelvic floor exercise video

This video is available with subtitles in other languages.

More information

CONfidence App for bladder or bowel leakage Back to pregnancy and after childbirth