So you’ve had a baby. But now, every time you jump, sneeze, cough too hard, or even laugh at your husband’s dad jokes that you pretend aren’t funny but actually really are, a little bit of pee comes out. This is called postpartum incontinence, or incontinence after childbirth, and although it is very common, it is not normal.

I am one of those women. I am a fitness buff but I can’t run, unless it's first thing in the morning and I haven’t drunk a single sip of anything yet, without pee coming out. And I don’t mean a tiny bit of pee. I mean a whole lot- enough where my pants and underwear are completely soaked all the way through. I wear black workout pants when I know I’m going to be running or doing a HIIT-style workout with jumping. I have to carry extra panties in my purse just in case and I often decide what I’m going to wear out depending on what we will be doing.

In fact, for both of my marathons, I had to carry around extra pads with me during my races just so I could change them out throughout.

I have to cross my legs when I sneeze.

I sometimes run to the bathroom when I have a coughing fit.

Jumping jacks are my arch-nemesis.

Sometimes, especially first thing in the morning, I can’t make it to the bathroom fast enough.

Does this sound like you?

If it does, know that these things are pretty common between mothers. My own mother still jokes about how she can’t do much of anything without peeing. But here’s the real joke— It’s not normal.

So what exactly is incontinence after childbirth? If its not normal yet extremely common, why aren’t we doing more to help women so they don’t experience the same issues?


What is incontinence after childbirth?

According to whattoexpect.com, postpartum urinary incontinence is defined as the, “involuntary leaking of urine that can occur after pregnancy and childbirth…You may experience this loss of bladder control while laughing, sneezing, coughing or performing a strenuous activity, and it's very common after giving birth. In fact, it's estimated that about half of adult women may experience postpartum urinary incontinence. Some women experience urinary leakage associated with urgency — that “gotta go” sensation. Others actually experience both types of leakage.”

Some women may experience anal incontinence in which fecal matter leaks out during different activities.

No matter which type of incontinence you experience after childbirth the fact of the matter is that it can be quite embarrassing and a huge inconvenience to your daily life.

What causes incontinence after childbirth?

For most women, the baby passing through the pelvic floor and vaginal canal are enough to cause urinary incontinence after childbirth. Your baby has pushed on your pelvic floor and your bladder, causing stress and trauma in these areas. In addition, the changing hormones (surprise surprise), as well as the uterus rapidly shrinking after childbirth, can make it difficult for a new mom to hold in her urine, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

There are some other risk factors that increase the likelihood of incontinence after childbirth such as:

  • Overweight or mothers with high BMIs are more likely to experience urinary incontinence
  • Traumatic births to include episiotomies, large babies, or the use of vacuums or forceps during birth may increase the likelihood of urinary incontinence after childbirth.
  • A mother who smokes throughout pregnancy or starts again shortly after birth may experience urinary incontinence.
  • Genetics may also play a role in the risk of having urinary continence after you have a baby (thanks, mom)
  • Women who have a prolapsed uterus or vagina after birth are more likely to experience urinary incontinence.
  • Women who give birth vaginally are 50% more likely to experience incontinence after childbirth.



According to the urogynecology department at the University of Colorado, some of the other causes of urinary incontinence after childbirth include:

  • Damage to the nerves that control the bladder, rectum and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Movement of the urethra and bladder from their usual position.
  • Having an episiotomy or experiencing a tear in the pelvic floor muscle during delivery.
  • Undergoing an assisted vaginal delivery with either forceps or a vacuum, which can damage the pelvic floor and anal sphincter, leading to urinary or fecal incontinence.

How to know if you have urinary incontinence after childbirth?


Honestly, the signs will be pretty apparent. If you feel as though you constantly have to “go” even when not consuming many liquids, it may be a sign that your bladder is weak and cannot hold as much fluid as before you had your child.


If you find you are urinating involuntarily when doing a high-impact activity like running or jumping, or pee comes out when you sneeze, laugh, or cough, you may have an issue with your pelvic floor muscles as well as your bladder muscles.


But don’t worry. There are some things you can do before you have your baby as well as postpartum to help prevent urinary incontinence after childbirth.

Things you can do to help urinary incontinence before and after a child?

Many women have been screaming from the rooftops that more needs to be done for mothers postpartum to not only care for their mental wellbeing but also their physical wellbeing. After all, we just spent 10 months growing a baby, creating huge changes to our hormones and our physical body, not to mention the sheer trauma of childbirth. And most of us are expected to just get up and keep going a few days or weeks after all of that!

If you are reading this article before you have a baby, or before you have your next baby, know that there are some things you can do before you give birth that may help prevent urinary incontinence after childbirth:

  • Eat healthy. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help keep your body strong and your weight down. Of course, eat enough to keep your baby growing but don’t reach for McDonald’s every day (even if your baby is craving it!).
  • Exercise. The simple act of walking or doing yoga are great prenatal exercises for expecting mothers. These activities will help strengthen your pelvic floor so that childbirth and recovery from childbirth goes much smoother- including urinary incontinence.
  • Do your kegels. You’ve probably heard of them. Kegals are an exercises in which you squeeze your pelvic floor (like you’re trying to hold in your pee). You can try to work yourself up to 3 sets of 10 second kegels three times per day to get yourself ready for childbirth and the recovery.
  • Train your bladder. Try to use the restroom every 30 minutes or so to help train your bladder to go before you “have to.”
  • Increase your fiber. This will help you not be as constipated during pregnancy and after childbirth which can help relieve the pressure on your bladder.
  • Drink more water. It may sound contrary, but drinking more water will actually help. Drink your specified amount (usually your weight in half is the number of ounces you should shoot for) every day.



There are steps you can take after having a baby that may help your urinary continence after childbirth:

Diet. Food and drinks such as coffee, citrus, spicy foods, and soda can all irritate the bladder so ditch those after having your baby to lower your risk of urinary incontience.

Exercise. Start a low-impact workout regimen (when your doctor gives the ok, anyways) to keep your BMI low and lose the pregnancy weight as this can help with bladder control.

Physical therapy. Often a much-discussed topic in regards to what should be provided to women for postpartum care, pelvic floor physical therapy can significantly help decrease the risk of postpartum incontinence.

Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS). According to the University of Colorado urogynecology department, PTNS is a “nonsurgical treatment for overactive bladder and a form of neuromodulation therapy. During PTNS treatments, a doctor places a slim needle in the ankle where the tibial nerve is located. The needle delivers electrical impulses to the tibial nerve, which sends signals to the sacral nerves in the spine that control bladder and pelvic floor function. Over time, these pulses block nerve signals that are not working properly to lessen urinary incontinence symptoms.”

Pessary. A pessary is another more invasive procedure to help with urinary incontinence. With this procedure, “a device is inserted into the vagina to provide support for vaginal tissues, in turn, aiding in bladder incontinence.”

Surgical treatments. The last raid to treatment is surgery. It may be recommended for women who have completed childbearing and have not had success with other therapy.


Although urinary incontinence after childbirth is common, it doesn’t mean its ok. Women have been known for years to have urinary incontinence after having children but just because that is how women were treated in the past doesn’t mean that’s what women should experience now. Push your doctor for pelvic floor therapy and use some of the suggestions above to help your urinary incontinence.