Urinary and Fecal Incontinence
Urinary incontinence and, less commonly, fecal incontinence, plague some new
mothers shortly after giving birth.
The inadvertent passage of urine, especially when laughing, coughing or
straining, usually is caused by the stretching of the base of the bladder
during pregnancy and delivery. Usually, time is all that's needed to return
your muscle tone to normal. You may hasten the process by doing Kegel
In the meantime, wear protective undergarments or sanitary napkins. If the
problem persists, talk to your doctor, who may be able to prescribe medication
to relieve the problem. If you experience pain or burning, or have an
uncomfortable urgency to urinate, tell your doctor. This could be a sign of a
Lack of bowel control often is attributed to the stretching and weakening of
pelvic muscles, tearing of the perineum, and nerve injury to the sphincter
muscles around the anus during delivery. It is most common in women who have
had a prolonged labor followed by a vaginal birth.
Although fecal incontinence usually disappears after several months, talk
with your doctor about exercises to help you regain control of your bowels.
Fecal incontinence that does not resolve itself over time may require surgical
That lustrous sheen that pregnancy brought to your hair may fade by the time
your baby is 6 months old. You'll likely notice hair loss as well. During
pregnancy, skyrocketing hormones prevent the normal, almost imperceptible daily
loss of hair. Several months after delivery (or when breast-feeding slows or
ceases), many women begin to fear the worst as they watch their hair fall out
at an alarming rate. Rest assured, the hair you're losing is only equivalent to
the hair you would have shed during pregnancy had your hormones not stepped in.
Generally, the sudden change in hair volume is temporary and not noticeable to
Most women experience a case of the "baby blues" after the birth of
their child. Changes in hormone levels, combined with the new responsibility of
caring for a newborn, make many new mothers feel anxious, overwhelmed or angry.
For most, this moodiness and mild depression go away within several days or
Longer lasting or more severe depression is classified as postpartum
depression (PPD), a condition that affects 10% to 20% of women who have just
given birth. PPD, which usually becomes apparent two weeks to three months
after delivery, is characterized by intense feelings of anxiety or despair.
Lack of sleep, shifts in hormone levels and physical pain after childbirth can
all contribute to PPD, making it difficult for some women to cope with their
new role and overcome their sense of loneliness, fear or even guilt.
The first step in treating postpartum depression is enlisting the support of
family and close friends. Share your feelings with them, and get their help in
caring for your infant. Be sure to discuss any PPD symptoms with your doctor,
who can prescribe medication or recommend support groups to help you better
cope with these new and unfamiliar emotions.
If your depression is combined with lack of interest in the baby, suicidal
or violent thoughts, hallucinations or abnormal behavior, get immediate medical
attention. These symptoms could indicate a more serious condition called