New babies inevitably attract ‘wee’ jokes but the subject is no laughing matter when it is mum, rather than baby, who has the trouble holding their water.
More than one in three expectant mothers in Ireland report leaking urine in early pregnancy and half of all new mums say they are left with leaks three months after giving birth — playing havoc with their sex lives and their ability to exercise and leaving them fearful even to laugh or sneeze.
The finding is the first from a major study under way by researchers from Trinity College Dublin who are looking into all aspects of maternal health for firsttime mothers.
The MAMMI (Maternal Health And Maternal Morbidity In Ireland) study — the largest of its kind ever in this country — is following more than 2,600 women through their pregnancy and for one year after birth to track their experiences — a study group that covers about one in 10 first-time mothers in an average year.
Among the issues being examined are diet and exercise in pregnancy; anxiety, stress, and depression; pelvic girdle pain; sexual health; caesarean sections; domestic violence; and the often awkward-to-discuss issue of urinary incontinence.
Cecily Begley, who is heading up the study, said there was a lack of information on women’s post-pregnancy health in Ireland, which meant doctors struggled to deal with the causes and best treatments for common conditions such as urinary and bowel problems and sexual and emotional health issues.
“Maternity care and information gathering is focused on the pregnancy and birth period,” said Prof Begley.
“Women have a final check-up six weeks after the birth, usually with the GP, when it is assumed that her body has returned to ‘normal’.
“This is the case for a lot of women who stay healthy and well but is not the case for a considerable proportion of women.”
According to the study, one in three women leak urine very occasionally even before becoming pregnant with one in 12 having an incident at least once a month.
In early pregnancy, that leaps to one in three women with occasional leaks and one in five regularly leaking.
Three months after birth, one in two women have leaks and six months after the birth, one in five are leaking at least once a month.
Overweight women were more likely to leak before pregnancy, with women 35 and over three times more likely to begin leaking while pregnant than younger women.
Deirdre Daly of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Trinity said leaking, while common, was not normal and could be treated.
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