One in two first-time Irish mothers has problems controlling their bladder three months after giving birth to a baby, a new study revealed today.
The study has shown women have a major problem with incontinence before and after giving birth.
Incontinence is an uncontrollable and involuntary loss of bladder control which means sufferers leak urine when unwillingly and sporadically.
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) are carrying out a study to track the health of first-time mothers in Ireland. It will follow over 2,600 women throughout their pregnancies and their first year as mothers. This represents almost 10% of all first-time mothers giving birth in this country in any given year.
The MAMMI (Maternal Health And Maternal Morbidity in Ireland) study will look at a range of health issues including mental health problems, sexual health, diet during and after pregnancy, and caesarean sections.
It has just released the first set of early findings on urinary incontinence in women before, during and after birth. These findings are based on the experiences of 860 women.
Dr Deirdre Daly, Assistant Professor in Midwifery at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “The key message for women is that leaking urine is common, but it is not normal and can be treated.
“Far too many women put up with urinary leakage during and after pregnancy because they think it is ‘normal’ or ‘to be expected.”
Before becoming pregnant, those most at risk of urinary incontinence include women with a high body mass index (BMI). In fact, obese and very obese women are four times more likely to experience this problem compared to women of a normal weight. The risk is also increased in those who experience bed wetting as a child.
During pregnancy, the risk is increased in those over the age of 35 and those who are overweight before becoming pregnant.
Meanwhile women who have this problem during pregnancy are three times more likely to still have it three and six months after the birth.
Dr Daly continued: “The reality is that this can make some women miserable. While it affects them physically, it can also affect them emotionally and socially and affect the way women interact with their partner.”
She says some women stop exercising or are more cautious about socialising because they are afraid they will leak urine and someone will notice.
“Unfortunately, and partly because we have no information on leaking urine in pregnant women or new mothers in Ireland, many women who leak urine think they are alone. This can make women feel isolated, embarrassed and reluctant to talk about it or to seek help.”
A number of videos on urinary incontinence and pelvic floor exercises are available on the MAMMI website here
The MAMMI study is being funded by the Health Research Board (HRB).