Urinary incontinence after birth? Here's what you need to know, mama

At least one in three new moms experiences postpartum urinary incontinence.


As so many new moms will tell you, diaper changes aren't just for their newborns. Whether you've experienced a trickle of urine after laughing or coughing, or a full-blown pee-your-pants moment, you're not alone, mama.

Here are 10 facts to know about postpartum urinary incontinence.

1. There's a good reason why bladder leakage can happen.

In her third trimester, the average pregnant woman is carrying an extra 25-35 pounds, according to Charisse Balance, DPT, RYT. When you consider the extra weight in pounds, the baby itself weighs four to 10 pounds; the placenta two to three, the uterus two to five, the amniotic fluid, two to three; and up to four pounds extra in blood volume, that's a lot of additional weight your body isn't used to carrying.


According to Charisse, many women compensate for this weight by postural changes—tilting the pelvis forward, so the weight drops into the pelvic floor. Think of your pelvic floor muscles as a bowl, into which you've dropped 30 pounds, nonstop, for three months. Understandably, this can temporarily damage these muscles, which are responsible for closing your urethra.

2. You're not alone.

Seriously. At least one in three new moms experiences postpartum urinary incontinence.

3. There are two types of urinary incontinence.

Identifying which type of urinary incontinence you're experiencing—and it can definitely be both!—is important as you seek help and resources. Stress incontinence has nothing to do with mental or emotional stress and is instead the term for involuntary loss of urine caused by physical movement or activity. Leaking following coughing, laughing, or exercising is likely stress incontinence.

On the other hand, urge incontinence occurs when you have just emptied your bladder and still feel the urge to pee.

It is important to differentiate incontinence and a urinary tract infection, because sometimes the symptoms can feel similar. UTI symptoms may include:

  • Frequent or strong urge to pee without much pee coming out
  • Fever
  • Foul-smelling, cloudy, or bloody urine
  • Burning when you pee
  • Chills
  • Lower back pain

Report these symptoms to your provider right away.

4. Treatment exists—just ask the French.

While many American women have never even heard of a pelvic floor therapist, new mamas in France get 10 to 20 appointments with one—paid for by the government. This type of physical therapy helps to retrain the pelvic floor muscles, so bladder leakage doesn't have to be part of the postpartum experience.

5. You may still experience bladder leakage after a C-section.

One misconception about postpartum bladder leakage is that it only affects women who give birth vaginally. Charisse reminds us that a C-section is abdominal surgery, and in any other abdominal surgery, the patient would be sent to physical therapy for scar release and recovery. But alas, that is not the case for mamas who have had a C-section.

Adhesions in the fascia, according to Charisse, can contribute to misalignment and tightness everywhere else in the abdominal region, which can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction, which we know leads to incontinence.

Consider working with a physical therapist post-C-section to ensure you're getting all the help you can to treat any signs of bladder leaks.

6. Incontinence is common, but not normal.

Postpartum urinary incontinence is super common, but it isn't normal. And, a new survey from Cora found that 45% of new mothers said that after giving birth, having bladder leakage was worse for them than healing from childbirth. With that kind of impact, what we need to normalize is the conversation around how to treat it, so new mamas don't have to suffer in silence.

7. Kegels aren't the only solution.

If you've suffered from bladder leakage before, you've likely been told to do Kegel exercises to help recover your pelvic floor. While they can be effective, it's not the best idea for all cases of urinary incontinence.

First of all, seeing a Kegel isn't exactly as easy as watching someone flex their bicep. Therefore, it's more difficult to know if you're doing it correctly. When done incorrectly, even if it is, in fact, the best course of action for your type of incontinence, it can do more harm than help.

Then, there are cases where Kegels are actually a no-no. According to Claire Mockridge, a fitness and Pilates instructor whose work is based in biomechanics, "Your pelvic floor could be too tight. If you've been squeezing and squeezing, it can get bunched up. Whereas you need to relax your pelvic floor so you can get more length into the muscles—any muscle in the body actually needs length before strength. The longer a muscle is, the more load it can withstand. Think of a hammock that's hanging between two trees and loaded with rocks. If the trees are further apart, the hammock can hold more rocks and more weight."

8. Lifestyle changes can help reduce bladder leakage.

It's unpopular to give advice that involves cutting coffee, but caffeine may be a contributing culprit to your urinary incontinence. "Some behavioral changes can treat incontinence, including lifestyle modifications such as decreasing overall consumption of liquids and avoiding drinking caffeinated beverages that may irritate the bladder," says Dr. Camille Moreno, D.O. She adds that smoking—because, coughing—and being overweight can also contribute to incontinence.

9. Remember there are products to help.

Even while you're working with a physical therapist and doing your Kegels (if your provider has given you the okay!), your bladder leakage is unlikely to go away overnight. In the meantime, there are products on the market designed specifically for women with urinary incontinence. (Meaning: You don't need to use bulky period pads meant to capture liquid of different viscosity.)

Instead, you can choose products designed specifically for bladder leakage.

10. Be kind to yourself.

Having a baby turns your world upside down, in ways both joyous and unexpected. Give yourself time to heal and rejuvenate, and don't rush your recovery out of embarrassment or shame. It can take about three months post-childbirth for your pelvic floor to fully recover. So, see a pelvic floor physical therapist if it's driving you crazy, but also know that it's likely to pass.

And if it doesn't, there are plenty of tools, resources and medical professionals who can help.

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By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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Detective set

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Wooden doll stroller

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Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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