Stress incontinence is leaking urine during physical activity, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise. This may happen during pregnancy also due to the increased pressure from the baby on your bladder. It may start post-delivery, especially after vaginal childbirth.
In stress incontinence, the sphincter pelvic muscles, which support the bladder and urethra, are weakened. The sphincter is not able to prevent urine from flowing when pressure is placed on the abdomen (such as when you cough, laugh, or lift something heavy).
Stress incontinence is often seen in women who have had more than one pregnancy and vaginal delivery. It is more likely to happen if the pushing stage of the delivery has been prolonged and/ or forceps were used.
Coughing over a long period of time (such as chronic bronchitis and asthma) and obesity contribute to this problem.
Pelvic floor muscle training exercises (called Kegel exercises) may help control urine leakage. These exercises keep the urethral sphincter strong and working properly. Doing Kegel exercises during and after pregnancy can decrease the risk of developing stress urinary incontinence after childbirth.
Some women may use a device called a vaginal cone with pelvic exercises. You place the cone into the vagina. Then you try to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles to hold the cone in place. You can wear the cone for up to 15 minutes at a time, twice a day. Within 4 to 6 weeks, most women have some improvement in their symptoms.