(HealthDay News) – A 12-week exercise program, including pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT), during pregnancy can help prevent and treat urinary incontinence in late pregnancy, according to research published online July 17 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Signe N Stafne, PT, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 855 pregnant women who were randomly allocated to either an intervention comprising a 12-week once-weekly physical therapist-led group exercise session, including PFMT, conducted between weeks 20 and 36 of gestation, or regular antenatal care.

The researchers found that 11% of women in the intervention group reported any weekly urinary incontinence, compared to 19% of controls (P=0.004). Three percent of women in the intervention group reported fecal incontinence compared with 5% of controls, but the difference did not reach statistical significance (P=0.18).

“The results from the present trial indicate that pregnant women should do PFMT to prevent and treat urinary incontinence in late pregnancy. Thorough instruction in correct PFM contraction and PFMT is important, and specific PFM exercises should be included in exercise classes for pregnant women,” the authors write. “Any possible long-term effects on urinary incontinence and the preventive effect of PFMT on anal incontinence should be explored further.”

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