Pregnancy-related Incontinence

Pregnancy-related incontinence problems are common during and after pregnancy. Women can experience the problem one year or longer after having their baby. Rushing to the toilet or leaking when you cough, laugh, or exercise is often caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. Urinary Incontinence (UI) is ‘the complaint of any involuntary loss of urine. The most common form is stress UI, which is loss of urine on effort or physical exertion (e.g. sporting activities) or on coughing or sneezing.

UI is distressing and socially disruptive. It may be the cause of personal health and hygiene problems. It may restrict employment and educational or leisure opportunities. UI substantially increases the risk of hospitalisation and admission to a nursing home. It is widely understood that UI is a sensitive health issue and many women delay treatment for many years due to embarrassment or shame. Women may believe that UI is inevitable after childbirth or with advancing age and may not be aware of treatment options.

Pregnancy-related incontinence can be treated by a physiotherapist without drugs or surgery through exercises and advice that improve the strength of your pelvic floor muscles.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

The most common cause of pregnancy-related urinary incontinence is weak pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles span the bottom of your pelvis, supporting the uterus and helping to control the bladder and bowel.

The increasing weight of your baby, followed by the delivery, may weaken these muscles. Even if you don’t experience urinary incontinence, NICE guidelines recommend women complete regular pelvic floor exercises in their first and subsequent pregnancies to reduce the risk of the condition developing.

If you do suffer from incontinence, the guidelines also recommend that you should receive at least three months of supervised pelvic floor muscle training as a first-line treatment of the condition. It is also recommended that it should also be offered to women in their first pregnancy as a preventive strategy for UI.

Physiotherapists give advice, to women with UI, on key public health messages that improve lifestyle and well-being including; weight loss, reduction of caffeine/fluid intake, cessation of smoking, and an increase in physical exercise.

Physiotherapists advise daily repetitions of pelvic floor muscle exercises. If you have any concerns about these exercises ask your GP for a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist.

Physiotherapists can:

  • Teach you how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles correctly.
  • Advise you on your lifestyles, such as diet, exercise, and fluid intake, which will help you manage the problem.
  • Monitor your progress and modify the exercises accordingly.

Pelvic Floor Exercises for Pregnancy-related Incontinence

  • Sit or lie comfortably with your knees slightly apart. Pull up the muscles surrounding your back passage, as if you are stopping yourself from passing wind. Now add a squeeze towards the front around your vagina and bladder, as if stopping the flow of urine. Hold the squeeze while you count to four seconds, remembering to breathe normally
  • Rest for a few seconds, then repeat your long squeeze. See how many good-quality squeezes you can do before the muscles get tired. Stop when your muscles get tired
  • You may find that holding for four seconds is too easy, or for some women, it may be too hard. If this is the case, try holding for more or less time, concentrating on getting a good quality squeeze. Once you know how long you can hold a good squeeze, you can work to build this up over time.
  • When you find this exercise becomes too easy, try holding for a longer count, up to or beyond 10 seconds. You should also gradually increase the number of repetitions you do in each session

How can I help myself?

The best way to help yourself is to make your pelvic floor muscles stronger by exercising them as indicated above.

Practice these exercises several times a day. Do not exercise your pelvic floor muscles while emptying your bladder.

If you’re still having problems, ask your GP for a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist.

Top Tips to Help Prevent Pregnancy-related Incontinence

Your first session with a physiotherapist will include a detailed assessment, advice, and possibly a physical treatment. Everything you tell the physiotherapist will be completely confidential.

  • Follow the simple pelvic floor exercises every day as indicated above.
  • Try to prepare for coughing, sneezing, or any exertion such as getting up out of a chair by tightening your pelvic floor muscles first.
  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated drinks.
  • Avoid too much tea or coffee, as caffeine can irritate the bladder.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet to avoid constipation – straining to empty the bowel will weaken the pelvic floor muscles.

From incontinence to prolapse, pelvic pain, or constipation, there is growing evidence that physiotherapy can alleviate, and in many cases cure these symptoms. Many women don't know that help is available and it can be an embarrassing topic too.

At OHPC, we recognize this and engage female physiotherapists in dealing with women's issues at request.

We assist women with a wide spectrum of conditions including:

  • Pregnancy wellness programs / Prenatal and Postnatal Program
  • Fertility treatments (Acupuncture)
  • Pelvic floor pain in pregnancy
  • Bladder Dysfunction
  • Chronic Pelvic/low back pain
  • Weight management

In line with the ICF model approach, our experts will devise your treatment program. They will use a combination of pelvic floor exercises, pilates and/or electrical stimulation, advice on sleeping postures, toileting and positional modifications, relaxation techniques, Kinesio taping for treating your condition.

Kindly call us at +2348050922243 or email us at to discuss your options with our experts.



The content contained within this site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute either professional advice or an offer. While takes all reasonable care to ensure that the content is accurate, no warranty of representation is given that it is free from errors or omissions. Users of this site should always seek professional health advice from our chartered physiotherapist or another suitable qualified health professionals.