As if having to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes wasn't enough, more than 50 percent of all first-time moms-to-be -- and up to 85 percent of second-timers -- suffer from stress incontinence. A sneeze, a hearty laugh, or even a cough can put extra pressure on an already vulnerable bladder, causing a little leakage. (Another variation: Urge incontinence -- the sudden, uncontrollable need to urinate -- affects about 40 percent of pregnant women.)
The condition can start during the first trimester, when the body jacks up its production of the muscle-relaxing hormone progesterone. Often, though, it's a third-trimester problem, when the expanding uterus puts more pressure on the bladder. It usually clears up within six months after childbirth, when hormones return to normal levels and muscle tone improves. Until then, try:
Mastering Your Kegels
To strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles, start off with 10 to 15 Kegel exercises five times a day. Squeeze your vaginal muscles, hold for 10 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds before starting the next one. Every week, increase the number of repetitions by 5, until you've reached 25 to 30 contractions each time. Continue doing this exercise throughout your pregnancy.
To make sure you're doing them correctly, try holding back the flow while urinating. If you can, you've done a proper Kegel. Don't do this more than once or twice -- practicing Kegels while going to the bathroom can cause a urinary-tract infection.
Severe straining during bowel movements can also wreak havoc on pelvic-floor muscles. Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods; drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily; and stay active. You can also ask your doctor if a stool softener would work for you.
Training Your Bladder
For urge incontinence, urinate more frequently (every hour or two) so that you go before you feel an overwhelming need. After a week or so, gradually extend the time between bathroom visits until you're urinating every three hours (or you reach the goal set by you and your doctor).