Stopping the leaks

The birth of a new baby is a wonderful life event, but there are many challenges ahead for new mothers, including sleepless nights, breastfeeding difficulties, losing the extra ‘baby weight’ and the possibility of developing stress urinary incontinence.

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is the leaking of urine with coughing, sneezing or other exertion. High impact exercise, constipation and heavy lifting can increase the risk of SUI developing.

Women who deliver by caesarean sections are also at risk, as pregnancy is a risk factor regardless of the mode of delivery.

About one third of women will experience SUI after having a baby but the good news is that it can be treated with correct pelvic floor muscle exercises and by following lifestyle advice.

A study conducted by the University of South Australia showed physiotherapy proved effective for 84 per cent of women with mild to moderate SUI who received pelvic floor muscle training and lifestyle advice with a qualified Continence and
Women’s Health Physiotherapist.

Researchers also found the recovery rate was approximately 80 per cent after one year, which is comparable to, or even better than, the ‘cure’ rate reported with surgery.

Physiotherapist Taryn Watson from SouthCare Physiotherapy advises that pelvic floor muscle exercises should be done regularly during pregnancy and after childbirth.

“It is imperative to do these exercises correctly, as incorrect muscle activation may be detrimental,” says Mrs Watson.

“New mothers should avoid constipation by maintaining a healthy fibre and fluid intake (2.5-3L per day if breastfeeding, otherwise 1.5-2L), minimise heavy lifting and treat coughs and colds early.”

“It is highly recommended to have a postnatal check up with a specialist physiotherapist, just as you do with your obstetrician. Women shouldn’t return to high impact exercise without having a pelvic floor assessment first.”

You do not need a referral to see a Continence and Women’s Health Physiotherapist. When you make an appointment, inform the receptionist that your appointment is for incontinence or pelvic floor muscle training, to ensure you
see an appropriate practitioner.

Even if you have a referral to see a specialist doctor, getting on the right track with a physiotherapy program while you await your appointment will be invaluable to your long-term recovery.

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