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Navigating Leaks with Sneezing and Coughing Postpartum: A Mom's Guide to Confidence

Do you pee a little when you sneeze 🤧 or cough? Many moms think this is a part of the postpartum package. You’re not alone! While it’s NOT normal it is very common. Many women think this is just a normal part of having kids, or getting older. And they brush it off as just “oh it is what it is.” 

Being a mom is a 24/7 job, and for many busy mothers, the challenges of leaks during moments of sneezing and coughing can be a daily struggle. Especially, when your little one gets you sick. Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned pro, it's essential to address these concerns head-on, reclaim your confidence, and embrace solutions that fit seamlessly into your busy lifestyle. In this blog post, we'll explore the causes behind leaks, offer practical tips for managing them, and introduce discreet and effective solutions for on-the-go moms.

Postpartum leaking

Understanding the Causes of postpartum leaking

Before we dive into solutions, it's crucial to understand why leaks happen, especially during sneezing and coughing. The pelvic floor, a group of muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowel, can weaken over time due to factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging, and hormonal changes. When these muscles are weakened, they struggle to provide adequate support during activities like sneezing and coughing, leading to leaks.


Peeing or leaking with coughing and sneezing is what is considered impact/stress incontinence. When you go to sneeze your pelvic floor is either “too weak” or “too tight” to handle the load and cannot contract to block off the urinary passage adequately, leading to leaks.


This lack of support in the pelvic floor muscles can lead to unintentional urine leakage during activities that create pressure on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercising.

Impact or stress incontinence is commonly associated with factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging, obesity, and certain medical conditions that affect the pelvic floor muscles or nerves. In women, the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles due to childbirth, hormonal changes, or surgeries can contribute to stress incontinence. 

The pelvic floor muscles play a crucial role in maintaining urinary continence by supporting the pelvic organs and controlling the release of urine. When these muscles are unable to provide sufficient support or coordination, the increased abdominal pressure during activities like coughing or sneezing can overcome the weakened resistance of the pelvic floor, leading to urine leakage.

Many women (like myself included!) can also have tightness within the pelvic floor causing the leaks as well. So both a tight pelvic floor and weak pelvic floor can be the cause of leaks.

It’s important to understand whether your pelvic floor is weak or tight. An internal pelvic floor physical therapist can identify this for you by running a few tests. It’s important to know so you can determine your training plan. Doing kegels can make a pelvic floor worse if it is tight. Approaching the pelvic floor at all angles (breathing, connection, posture, glutes) is vital to strengthening the pelvic floor. 

The surrounding hip muscles also play a role in your pelvic health. So addressing the whole body for strengthening is encouraged. 

Think of it as if you held up your bicep all day long. The tightness and restriction becomes so bad it has nowhere to grow. When you go to sneeze or cough your pelvic floor cannot contract because it’s already so restricted. We need length within a muscle to help it get stronger and to properly contract. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles just like any other muscle groups in your body. It should be trained in a similar way.  

This type of incontinence is different from urge incontinence. I’ll go in more depth in another blog post understanding the difference between the two.

Practical Tips for Managing Leaks Postpartum:

Management and treatment of stress incontinence often involves pelvic floor exercises, lifestyle modifications, strengthening of the core, glutes, hips and adductors. In some cases, medical interventions or surgery is necessary.

Here are my top tips:

Tip #1 - Bladder Diary

Keep track of your fluid intake, bathroom habits, and instances of leaks in a bladder diary. This can help identify patterns and triggers, empowering you to make informed lifestyle adjustments. Here is a simple bladder diary sheet.

Tip #2 - Well Balanced Diet and Exercise

A well-balanced diet and regular exercise contribute to overall health, including the health of your pelvic floor muscles. When we move, our pelvic floor naturally activates and strengthens. The more we move the better. If you have a weight loss goal- even just losing 5 lbs of weight can take pressure off the pelvic floor and make improvements.

Tip #3 - Come Tall

  Instead of sneezing or coughing down, think of coming tall and sneezing up into your “chicken 🍗 wing” as we tell our  son – wthe video below on what you can do right away to help eliminate some leaking with coughing and sneezing.

Tip #4 - Lift Your Pelvic Floor

Try to lift the pelvic floor when you sneeze or cough. I know it is easier said than done but with practice and consistency you will get it.

Tip #5 - Practice Regular, Good Breathing

Practice regular, good breathing so your pelvic floor and breath work together so when you’re in these situations it can respond better

The most important thing is my CoreFOUR foundation to reclaiming your pelvic floor strength.

1.    Breathing - our breath naturally lengthens and strengthens our pelvic floor and abdominals.

2.    Posture awareness - when we become more posture mindful we take some pressure off our core and pelvic floor allowing it to move easily with our breath.

3.    Connecting our core with our pelvic floor - our deepest core layer- transverse abdominals- work directly with our pelvic floor. Pregnancy tends to shut off this connection leading to weakness in our abdominals and our pelvic floor. It’s time to retrain them together.

4.    Mastering glute strength - our glutes are a great indicator of what’s going on with our pelvic floor. Flat butt is generally associated with pelvic floor dysfunction because the pelvic floor ends up taking over for weak glutes and hips.

Don't forget...

Leaking during sneezing and coughing is a common challenge for many busy moms, but it doesn't have to define your daily experience. By understanding the causes, implementing practical lifestyle changes, and incorporating discreet solutions into your routine, you can regain control and confidence. Embrace the support available, prioritize your pelvic health, and continue to navigate the joys of motherhood with grace and resilience. Cheers to a leak-free and empowered journey ahead!

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