See that tiny slip of a thing with a head resting on it? That’s your bladder at the end of pregnancy.
Explains a few things, right?
Even a few weeks prior to term, the bladder– though squished–has much more room (see pictures below); in fact, it seems downright enormous compared to what’s going on here.
Inspired by this image, I thought I’d throw out some info about peeing and pregnancy:
1. It’s normal to have to pee ALL THE TIME at the end of pregnancy. And to occasionally spring a small leak when you sneeze or laugh. This later is called stress incontinence– the bladder is being stressed by the weight of the uterus/baby.
2. If you have some incontinence after birth (this can happen post c-section and post-vaginal birth), usually it’ll resolve within about six weeks. If it’s severe and doesn’t ease up talk to your doctor; there are often things you can do to help strengthen the muscles now to prevent bigger issues later on.
3. You can do pelvic floor exercises like Kegels (the tightening and releasing of pelvic floor muscles) to help prevent incontinence and maintain strength all through pregnancy and postpartum (and your entire life, basically). I’ve also been reading that general “core” fitness and maintaining a normal weight can have a very positive effect on pelvic floor health. Makes sense– more tone, less weight/pressure.
4. Ii you’re finding your bladder is overactive, in addition to kegels, you can try what’s called “timed voiding.” This means that when you have to go you try waiting a little longer– a few minutes if you can. Over time you increase your wait time so that you strengthen these muscles. (Interestingly, I read recently that excessive parental fussing over young kids “going to the bathroom” constantly–pee before we leave, do you need to pee??, try to pee!!, etc) can interfere with normal pelvic floor muscle development. Sure a kid shouldn’t–and can’t!–hold it in for vast stretches, but some ability to “hold it in” may actually be a good thing.)
5. If your waters break early, before labor starts, (this only happens 15% of the time), you might reasonably think you’re peeing. Many women wonder this at first, but almost always women realize it’s not pee. There is a little test that can be done to check if fluid is urine or amniotic fluid if you’re very confused, but this is rarely necessary.
6. To avoid nighttime pee breaks, drink a ton earlier in the day and very little to none before bedtime. Don’t avoid drinking water for fear of peeing all the time! Dehydration is a leading cause of premature labor; it’s so important to stay hydrated during pregnancy AND during labor.
7. One of the reasons your urine is constantly tested during prenatal check-ups is to check for increased protein which is a sign of precclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that can develop in the second half of pregnancy.
8. Yes, women pee during labor. You just get up and go to the bathroom and pee. In fact, remembering to pee is a good idea because even a semi-full bladder can take up some much needed space in the pelvic area.
9. If you have an epidural, you’ll also be given a urinary catheter to empty the bladder for you. This will be inserted after the numbing medication has taken effect and taken out soon after birth.
10. Peeing can sting after you give birth because of sore or tender areas around the vulva. Use a spray water bottle (given to you in the hospital or available at drug stores) to wash away urine, even as you pee; know that it will get better soon; for soreness, use witchhazel-soaked and frozen maxi-pads.