I ran across this hilarious description of the postpartum period, “Postpartum: The Musical,” on the Scary Mommy blog. So true!
So while we’re talking about the postpartum period and I’m preparing to start my second round in less than five weeks, I finally am going to share with y’all something I’ve been too embarrassed to blog about but feel is important to share with other new moms out there.
After Levi was born, I experienced issues with stress incontinence. Translation: I peed my pants. At the hospital, I leaked whenever I would bend over. My first thought was that no one mentioned this about pregnancy, so I hope that pushing for hours and having a catheter as a result of an epidural didn’t break something. I asked the nurse and my OB about it, and I was told it was normal and should correct itself after I healed from the birth. While it was certainly unpleasant, I accepted that I was leaking from all too many places as I learned how to nurse (nursing tips in my previous post “Mommy Is Not A Sippy Cup“) and recovered from pregnancy and childbirth. At my six-week postpartum appointment I talked to my OB about it again, and she said not to be alarmed just yet but to let her know if I’m still having issues with it in a few weeks.
Once I’d been cleared for exercise I started the Couch-to-5K program, an app on my iPhone, to build up my endurance, so I could run again. It worked for me before, and I thought it would be a nice, gentle transition to get back in shape post-baby. The walking portion worked out just fine, but once I got further into the program and started running (let’s be honest, I was jogging albeit with a giant baby stroller and our dog), I’d have a sudden, irresistible urge to pee and couldn’t hold it in any longer. Thankfully I was wearing dry fit-esque running shorts, so it wasn’t too noticeable, but I was embarrassed and frustrated. How was I ever going to lose this baby weight if I couldn’t exercise without peeing myself?
It was at that point that I called my OB’s office and asked for the recommendation to a urogynecologist that my OB had mentioned during my six-week postpartum checkup. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get in to see the specialist until after I went back to work, as I feared having accidents at work. Thankfully, God spared me from that increased level of embarrassment, as exercise seemed to be my greatest trigger.
In seeing the specialist, I brought my newborn son, who thankfully slept through the entire appointment, which was quite invasive and involved filling out a long, very personal questionnaire, measuring my urine and tracking my fluid intakes and activities for 24 hours. Unpleasant, but good for the specialist to have that information ahead of time, as she was able to diagnose me and explain my condition at my first appointment. She also gave me a special device that helped me get through my first post-baby 5K without wetting myself. Thank you, ma’am! She also referred me to a physical therapist, who I saw for a few months afterwards. The physical therapist was amazing, and she helped me learn how to strengthen my core, back and pelvic floor, which had been stretched to the limit during pregnancy and childbirth. I’m sure the back brace I had to wear for a couple months in early 2010—the result of a T-12 compression fracture while snowboarding—didn’t help my core muscles pre-pregnancy either.
One of the most surprising things I learned from this whole experience is that, according to the medical professionals who helped me, many women experience stress incontinence after having children, but just live with it or don’t deal with it until they are in their 50s+ and the problem worsens. I was by far the youngest patient (not counting newborn Levi) in the waiting room at the urogynecologist’s office. I wasn’t willing to accept this deterrent to exercise and hope to help other women learn that this problem is correctable!
Full disclosure: While I was able to overcome stress incontinence after my first pregnancy, I have experienced a few setbacks while exercising during my second pregnancy. My OB informed me that the weight of the baby and associated life-sustaining fluids, organs and the like will put enough pressure on my pelvic floor to cause the issue again, especially since I’m predisposed to this issue due to weakened muscles. However, this time I know what to do to fix it, and I won’t be too embarrassed to talk to my doctor about it and get it fixed again if need be.