Exercises May Help Pregnant Women With Stress Incontinence

New York, NY
January 20, 1999

A common complaint during pregnancy is stress incontinence, or the leaking of urine during coughing, laughing, lifting, exercising or just walking. This is probably due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, which may weaken the muscles that hold back urine.

The National Kidney Foundation recommends a safe, simple method for treating stress incontinence during pregnancy -- exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These exercises, called Kegel exercises, can also be used to help prevent incontinence. Kegel exercises involve squeezing the pelvic floor muscles. They are simple to do, although some women may have trouble identifying the appropriate muscles to squeeze. To help locate these muscles, the next time you are on the toilet, try to stop the flow of urine in midstream. You can also ask your doctor to refer you to a health care professional who is specially trained in teaching these exercises and monitoring your progress.

If you do the exercises on your own, make sure to do them regularly. A good plan would be to do three sets of contractions daily. Each time, do a set of fast contractions by counting quickly to 10 or 20, and contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles with each count. Then do a set of slow contractions, squeezing as hard as you can, holding for a count of 5 or 10 and repeating 10 to 20 times. Because Kegel exercises do not produce immediate results, you may want to use absorbent pads for a while. For more information and a free brochure about urinary incontinence, contact the National Kidney Foundation at (800) 622-9010.