Stress incontinence is a very common condition in pregnancy, and causes women to leak small amounts of urine when they laugh, cough or sneeze.
Women in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy are particularly susceptible to suffering from the condition due to the pressure of the uterus and the weight of the baby on the pelvic floor. Hormones in pregnancy may also be responsible for weakening the pelvic floor.
While stress incontinence is not a serious problem, it is an unpleasant aspect of pregnancy and childbirth. There are no treatments available to solve the condition, but practising pelvic floor exercises before, during and after pregnancy can definitely help to strengthen the muscles that prevent the leakage of urine.
To exercise the pelvic floor, women are advised to sit with the back straight and knees apart and imagine that they are sitting down ready to pass urine. The muscles that stop the flow of urine should then be clenched, pulled up and released 10 times, five times a day.
Additionally, there are many variations on pelvic floor exercises, and the woman's midwife or health visitor can advise on other techniques.
It is important to make the effort and practise pelvic floor exercises as, in years to come, women who have not strengthened their pelvic floor may be at risk from developing a prolapsed vagina, rectum, bladder or uterus.