Pregnancy is a transformative journey that brings about numerous changes in a woman’s body. While the most noticeable changes are often centered around the growing belly and the development of the baby, there are other alterations taking place, including those that affect the bladder.
Your Bladder During Pregnancy
The relationship between pregnancy and the bladder is intricate, as hormonal shifts and physical adjustments combine to create a unique set of challenges and experiences for expectant mothers. Alliance Urology has outlined a few of the changes that take place during pregnancy that affect the bladder.
One of the primary factors that affect the bladder during pregnancy is hormonal fluctuation, particularly the surge in hormones like progesterone. Progesterone plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy by relaxing smooth muscles, promoting blood vessel development, and preventing uterine contractions. However, its muscle-relaxing effects extend beyond the uterus, affecting other organs, including the bladder.
As progesterone levels rise, the muscles of the bladder and its surrounding structures become more relaxed. While this is essential for accommodating the growing uterus and preventing premature contractions, it can lead to a decrease in bladder tone and capacity. As a result, pregnant women may find themselves experiencing more frequent urges to urinate, even when the bladder isn’t necessarily full.
Pressure and Displacement
As the baby grows, the expanding uterus exerts pressure on surrounding organs, which has an effect on the bladder. As early as the first trimester, many women may notice an increased need to urinate. This pressure can lead to the sensation of needing to visit the bathroom more frequently, especially during the later stages of pregnancy. The pressure can also lead to incomplete bladder emptying, contributing to the feeling of urgency.
During the later stages of pregnancy, the pressure on the bladder can become even more pronounced. The growing fetus occupies more space within the abdominal cavity, leading to a sense of fullness and pressure on the bladder. This pressure can make it challenging for the bladder to expand fully, resulting in smaller storage capacity and more frequent trips to the bathroom.
For many pregnant women, the combination of hormonal changes, pressure on the bladder, and relaxation of muscles can lead to a phenomenon known as urinary incontinence. This condition involves involuntary leakage of urine, particularly when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or engaging in physical activities. Stress urinary incontinence, as it is called, can be a frustrating and embarrassing side effect of pregnancy.
Pelvic Floor Weakening
The weakening of pelvic floor muscles due to hormonal factors and increased pressure can affect the bladder during pregnancy. These muscles play a vital role in supporting the bladder and controlling the release of urine. Strengthening these muscles through pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) can help reduce the risk and severity of urinary incontinence during and after pregnancy.
The effects of pregnancy on the bladder don’t necessarily end with childbirth. While some changes may gradually revert to their pre-pregnancy state, other alterations might persist for some time. The pelvic floor muscles can experience strain during labor and delivery, potentially leading to ongoing issues with urinary control.
In some cases, women may continue to experience urinary incontinence after giving birth. However, proper pelvic floor exercises, physical therapy, and medical guidance can aid in recovering bladder control and minimizing the impact of these changes.
There is no hiding that pregnancy can affect the bladder. While these effects are common and expected, it’s essential for expectant mothers to understand these changes in order to maintain health throughout pregnancy and beyond. Our state-of-the-art services and procedures at Alliance Urology can help with any problem related to the bladder, reproductive, or urinary system. To schedule an appointment with one of our providers to talk more about how pregnancy can affect the bladder, please call our office in Greensboro at (336) 274-1114.