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Leaking Urine (Stress Incontinence) in Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Leaking Urine

Since you became pregnant, have you noticed you lose urine frequently.

Since you became pregnant, do you find that it's hard to hold your urine when you're laughing or sneezing? It may be embarrassing when you have accidentally urine leaks, but they are quite common in pregnancy. This is called "stress incontinence," and up to one-third of all pregnant women will experience this symptom.

Leaking urine, or stress incontinence, is most common in the third trimester, when your uterus is at its heaviest and places the most pressure on the bladder. However, stress incontinence and urine leaks can also happen in the first and second trimesters.

What Causes Leaking Urine in Pregnancy?

When you're pregnant, your expanding uterus places increased pressure on your bladder, the urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside), and pelvic floor muscles. This pressure, as well as hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy, can weaken your pelvic floor support. Consequently, you may have accidentally urine leaks when there's additional pressure exerted – such as when you laugh, cough, sneeze, exercise, or lift heavy objects.

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Helpful Tips to Cope with Urine Leaks

Urine leaks are embarrassing and quite distressing, but they are a very normal part of being pregnant. To avoid humiliation, you may want to wear light panty liners to soak up any accidental leaks. (Do not use tampons – they are not safe to use during pregnancy.)

To help prevent urine leaks, you'll want to empty your bladder completely every time that you go to the bathroom. You should also urinate before you perform any type of exercise. In addition, don't try to "hold it" when you feel the need to urinate. This may mean you'll be heading to the bathroom more often, but it may just help prevent embarrassing leaks.

If you find that stress incontinence is a problem for you, consider performing Kegel exercises on a regular basis to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This in turn can improve the function of your urethra and rectal sphincter (anal muscle ring).

How to Do Kegel Exercises

Performing your Kegel exercises is easy. All you have to do is squeeze the muscles you normally use to urinate, and then relax them. Finding the right muscle can be a challenge at first. If you're having a hard time figuring out which muscles to tighten, the next time that you have to go, start to urinate, and then suddenly stop.

When you are ready to perform your Kegel exercises, make sure that your bladder is empty. (You don't want to accidentally urinate on yourself!) Next, tighten the pelvic floor muscles and hold for 10 seconds. Then, relax those muscles for another 10 seconds. Repeat the process for another 10 times, and do it three times every day.

You can do Kegel exercise anywhere you want, but most pregnant women prefer to perform their Kegels when they are sitting down in a chair, or lying down.

(If you experience any discomfort in your back or abdomen when performing your Kegels, you're not doing them right.)

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