Bladder control problems during pregnancy can be stressful for some first-time moms, but they typically improve quickly after childbirth, a new study shows.
Among 344 pregnant women researchers followed, 45 percent developed overactive bladder symptoms by the 36th week of pregnancy. Another 15 percent had overactive bladder along with incontinence, or urine leakage.
However, three months after giving birth, only 8 percent had overactive bladder syndrome - defined as a frequent, urgent need to urinate, both day and night. And just 3.5 percent still had urinary incontinence.
Still, the study found, women who suffered incontinence often felt stressed and embarrassed by the problem, before and after delivery.
Dr. Henriette Jorien van Brummen and her colleagues at University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands report the findings in the journal BJU International.
It’s known that pregnant women often develop bladder control problems, but there has been little study of how this affects their quality of life, according to the researchers.
In the current study, nearly half of the women developed overactive bladder without urine leakage by late pregnancy, but they did not report a diminished quality of life. The added problem of incontinence, however, did affect their emotional well-being.
“It’s an issue that healthcare professionals need to address when they deal with pregnant women and those who have recently delivered, as it can cause real problems and distress,” van Brummen said in a statement.
There are a number of ways to aid bladder control problems, including exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and behavioral tactics like scheduled bathroom breaks.
A number of factors, according to van Brummen, may help explain why pregnant women often develop temporary overactive bladder and incontinence. Pressure on the bladder from the growing uterus, and changes in urine production and hormonal levels during pregnancy may all contribute.
SOURCE: BJU International, February 2006.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD