How to manage urine leaks during pregnancy and after childbirth

It’s common for women to leak urine (also known as incontinence) during pregnancy and after childbirth – in fact, research shows that one in three women over the age of 35 experience urine leakage, including light leaks*. 
Here, we look at the causes behind leaking urine during and after pregnancy, and share some advice on how to get your bladder back under control.  
We cover: 
  • Why do women leak urine during pregnancy? 
  • Are leaks during pregnancy always pee? 
  • How to manage urine leaks during pregnancy 
  • Urine leaks after childbirth 
  • How to manage urine leaks after childbirth 

Why do women leak urine during pregnancy?

There are many ways that pregnancy affects the bladder, which can lead to us feeling the need to pee more often or experience leaks. Here are some of the reasons why it happens:
1. Your body produces more pee
Throughout pregnancy, your blood volume increases causing the kidneys to produce more urine, so you need to go to the bathroom more frequently. 

2. Your bladder is getting squeezed
As your uterus expands with your growing baby, there’s extra pressure on your bladder. The bigger your baby gets, the more your bladder gets squeezed, which is why you might feel you live in the bathroom during your third trimester.
3. Your hormones are softening everything 
The body’s reproductive hormones loosen and relax your muscles, joints and ligaments during pregnancy to help your body stretch and prepare for delivering a baby. These hormones also weaken the muscles that control urine flow, so leaks become more common.
Throw in (a common symptom that we can experience during pregnancy and after birth) and there’s even more pressure on your pelvic floor and bladder. This weakens the support around your urinary tract, which can mean you experience light leaks – especially when you laugh, cough or sneeze.
4. You’re lying down at night
When you finally lie down to rest after carrying around a baby all day, any fluid retention in your legs and feet finds its way back into your bloodstream. This increases the production of urine, which is why you keep waking up at 3am to pee.

Are leaks during pregnancy always pee?

Leaks during pregnancy are most likely urine. If you put a liner in your underwear and the fluid is yellowish in colour, then it’s probably pee. If you’re at all worried that you could have amniotic fluid leakage, contact your doctor or midwife – a quick scan will determine if everything’s as it should be and put your mind at ease.

How to manage urine leaks during pregnancy

1. Strengthen your pelvic floor
– which involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor – can help to reduce leaks by strengthening the muscles around your bladder. This gives you the support you need to carry the extra weight of a baby whilst also counteracting the softening effect that your hormones have on your muscles and ligaments.
The exercises are really simple and can be done anywhere – at home, on the bus, at work when you’re bored in a meeting. They help to keep the pelvic floor strong and elastic with good blood circulation, which can also improve recovery time after childbirth. Check out this article to find out how to do them effectively.
2. Take time to empty your bladder fully
When you’ve been to the loo three times before breakfast, it can be tempting to rush the bathroom visit, but don’t. Leaving even a small amount of urine in the bladder increases your chances of developing a , so always take the time to empty your bladder completely. A great tip is to lean forward on the toilet seat – this is the most effective position for the body when it comes to emptying the bladder fully. 
3. Wear the right liners
Wearing the right liners means that you can relax whatever cough, sneeze or laughing fit life throws at you. You might be tempted to use standard menstrual pads, but these won’t offer the right levels of absorption that a liner specifically designed to deal with urine leakage will. If you’re experiencing light leaks, TENA’s Discreet Ultra Mini Incontinence Liner provides triple the protection from leaks, odour and moisture thanks to its unique microPROTEX™ technology. It’s super absorbent and no larger than a menstrual pad.
4. Wear compression stockings 
To avoid leaking at night or waking up multiple times to pee, try wearing compression stockings. It’s a good idea to wear them first thing in the morning so that fluid doesn’t have time to build up in the legs and feet throughout the day. That way, when you lie down at night, there’s less fluid to make its way back into your bloodstream.

Urine leaks after childbirth

By the time your baby’s due, your organs (including your bladder and urethra) will have moved around a lot to make room for your growing baby. The , which surround your urethra, vagina and anus, will have been stretched; and labour also takes a significant toll on the pelvic floor. 
All of this can cause for a while after childbirth. This can last a few weeks, or you might find that you experience the odd accident now and again over a longer period. 
Your body just needs some time to heal and readjust – things should settle down again and there are things you can do to prevent, reduce and manage your symptoms. However, if you’re concerned that you may have a more serious problem, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor.

How to manage urine leaks after childbirth

1. Work that pelvic floor
aren’t just essential throughout pregnancy and in the months after childbirth – they’re essential for all stages of our lives. 
A strong pelvic floor is key to prevent and manage urinary and anal . That’s because your support all of the organs above them, including the bladder. They also balance abdominal pressure. When abdominal pressure increases – think about when you cough, sneeze or lift something heavy – a strong pelvic floor will spring back, so that you don’t experience leaks.
It's a good idea to try to fit pelvic floor exercises in every day. If you’ve recently given birth, it’s best to do the exercises lying down to avoid putting any extra pressure on the pelvic area but, over time, you can practise them pretty much anywhere. Check out our article for tips on how to do pelvic floor exercises effectively and safely after childbirth.
2. Find the right pads and liners
After giving birth, it’s worth investing in pads that are specifically designed to help absorb leaking urine. 
In the weeks after birth, you’ll need pads with heavier absorbency levels. TENA Discreet Protect+ pads lock in odour and moisture, allowing you to stay dry for up to 12 hours. 
Over time, as the leaks get lighter, you can move to a liner – TENA Discreet Ultra Mini Incontinence Liner provides triple the protection from leaks, odour and moisture thanks to its unique microPROTEX™ technology. It’s super absorbent and no larger than a menstrual pad.
Or if your skin is sensitive after childbirth, TENA Lights Sensitive Normal Incontinence Liners are fast-absorbing, very discreet and have 0% fragrance or dye for gentle protection. 
3. Train your bladder
During the latter stages of pregnancy, your bladder can’t hold as much urine as usual, as it’s being restricted (read: kicked and squeezed) by your baby. It’s only natural that, after you’ve given birth, it needs to get used to holding more pee again. 
As a rule, you should pee between 4-8 times a day or every 4-6 hours (average bladder capacity is around 300-500ml). So, if you find you’re peeing a lot less than this, gradually try to increase the time between bathroom visits. This will help train your bladder to hold in more pee whilst, at the same time, exercising those all-important pelvic floor muscles. 
And if you’re still waking up at night to pee, see if you can go back to sleep again without going to the loo – sometimes old habits can take a while to shift.
4. Don’t be tempted to drink less water
It’s the most natural conclusion in the world – you’re peeing too often, so you drink less water. But this is exactly what you don’t want to do. Drinking less water leads to dehydration which, in turn, causes your urine to become more concentrated. This can irritate the bladder, creating the urge to go to the toilet even when the bladder isn’t full, so it’s important to stay well hydrated.
Drinking water is essential if you’re breastfeeding. It also helps with digestion, eases and keeps your urine healthy, which reduces your risk of developing a UTI. To find out more about what to do if you get a UTI, check out our article.
TENA is here to help you navigate your pregnancy and post-partum journey, with practical advice for pregnancy and post-partum incontinence. If you feel that you need more support, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional, like your nearest GP. We have a huge range of products designed to support you – check out the full range here and don’t hesitate to contact us if you can’t find the right product for you.