Skip to main content

Urinary incontinence in pregnancy

Urinary incontinence is when you leak urine without intending to. Find out what you can do about this during pregnancy and how to help prevent it.

You may feel the need to pass urine often during early pregnancy. This may continue up to 18 weeks into pregnancy, and sometimes after 30 weeks.

Increased fluid levels within your body and the added pressure from your baby on your bladder will make you need to pass urine more often.

Urinary incontinence is when you leak urine unintentionally.

Hormonal changes in pregnancy can also cause your pelvic floor muscles to become more relaxed. This can sometimes cause you to leak urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise. Squeezing your pelvic floor when you feel this is about to happen can help.

Pelvic floor muscle training will help the body cope with the growing weight of the baby.

Ask your GP, obstetrician or midwife to refer you to a chartered physiotherapist in women's health if you are experiencing urinary incontinence, or if you have had a previous perineal tear.

Bladder control and pelvic floor muscles

Frequent trips to the bathroom are annoying. But it is important for you and your baby’s health to keep drinking the recommended amount of fluids every day.

When you are pregnant you should drink around 2 to 3 litres of water per day. This is about 1 to 2 glasses of water more a day than the usual recommended amount for a woman.

Drinks with caffeine in them can also irritate your bladder, making you pee more.

Drinking or eating high levels of caffeine during pregnancy is not safe for your baby.

Related topics

Caffeine during pregnancy

Pelvic floor exercises

If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, you may have problems with bladder or bowel control and support of your pelvic organs.

Pelvic floor exercises will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Muscles that are healthy and fit before the baby is born will mend more easily after the birth.

Getting help

See your GP, obstetrician or midwife if you have:

  • stinging, pain or burning when you are passing urine
  • a high temperature.
  • an ache in your lower back that is not helped by rest
  • any fluid leaking from your vagina.
  • smelly or unusual discharge from your vagina

Ask your GP, obstetrician or midwife to refer you to a charted physiotherapist who is specialised in women's health if:

  • leaking urine is a problem for you
  • you have had a previous perineal tear and you are leaking urine

A specialist physiotherapist can create a treatment programme for your particular needs.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 14/11/2018
Next review due: 14/11/2021