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How does the bladder work?

Many women will have urine leakage, which is also called incontinence, during pregnancy or after they have given birth.

The bladder is a round, muscular organ that is located above the pelvic bones. It is supported by the pelvic muscles. A tube called the urethra allows urine to flow out of the bladder. The bladder muscle relaxes as the bladder fills with urine, while the sphincter muscles help to keep the bladder closed until you are ready to urinate.

Other systems of the body also help to control the bladder. Nerves from the bladder send signals to the brain when the bladder is full; nerves from the brain signal the bladder when it needs to be emptied. All of these nerves and muscles must work together so that the bladder can work normally.

How do pregnancy and childbirth affect bladder control?

During pregnancy, you may leak urine between trips to the bathroom. This might be due to stress incontinence, which occurs when you cough, laugh, or do other physical activities, and can be made worse by the pressure the unborn baby puts on the pelvic structures. The extra pressure can also make you feel the urge to urinate more often. These symptoms may be only temporary, and often end within a few weeks after the baby is born.

Pregnancy, the type of delivery, and the number of children a woman has can increase the risk of incontinence. Women who have given birth (whether by vaginal delivery or cesarean section) have much higher rates of stress incontinence than those who never have had a baby.

Loss of bladder control may be caused by pelvic organ prolapse (slipping down) that sometimes occurs after childbirth. The pelvic muscles can stretch and become weaker during pregnancy or vaginal delivery. If the pelvic muscles do not provide enough support, your bladder may sag or droop. This condition is known as a cystocele. When the bladder sags, it can cause the urethra’s opening to stretch.

Other causes of bladder control problems include the following:

  • Pelvic nerves that control bladder function may be injured during a long or difficult vaginal delivery.
  • Delivery with forceps can result in injuries to the pelvic floor and anal sphincter muscles.
  • Prolonged pushing during a vaginal delivery also increases the likelihood of injury to the pelvic nerves and the bladder control problems that might follow.

What might cause bladder control loss in women who have had children?

Loss of bladder control may be caused by pelvic organ prolapse (slipping down) that sometimes occurs after childbirth. The pelvic muscles can stretch and become weaker during pregnancy or vaginal delivery. If the pelvic muscles do not provide enough support, your bladder may sag or droop. This condition is known as a cystocele. When the bladder sags, it can cause the urethra’s opening to stretch.

Other causes of bladder control problems include the following:

  • Pelvic nerves that control bladder function may be injured during a long or difficult vaginal delivery.
  • Delivery with forceps can result in injuries to the pelvic floor and anal sphincter muscles.
  • Prolonged pushing during a vaginal delivery also increases the likelihood of injury to the pelvic nerves and the bladder control problems that might follow.

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