Why You Pee When You Laugh or Sneeze Postpartum—and How to Fix It

Uncover the science behind why laughter or sneezing triggers unexpected leaks, and learn practical strategies to address and overcome this common postpartum challenge.
bladder leak

“Every time I leak, I think, what am I? Two years old?!” As my client Shannon told me how bladder leaking was impacting her life, I could see the years of pent-up frustration and sadness on her face.

When Shannon first came to see me as a client to help relieve her bladder leaking, she had been suffering with this issue since having her first child 23 years ago. The problem had gradually gotten worse and had been significantly interfering with her life for 10 years. 

She wore, on average, 3-5 incontinence pads per day and the worry was always in the back of her mind that, if she sneezed, coughed, laughed, had to quickly jog, or picked up something heavy, she would leak. 

While every woman’s experience with bladder leaking varies greatly in its severity, there is one overriding theme—bladder leaking is one of the most common issues women will experience postpartum.

Leaking urine (usually of the ‘stress urinary incontinence’ variety) after childbirth is very common. One in three women who have had a baby experience leakage at some point, according to a study published in the journal Medicine, with some estimates going as high as 40 percent.

Why does bladder leaking happen postpartum?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Tissue or nerve damage during delivery of a child can weaken the pelvic floor muscles or the sphincter. Stress incontinence from this damage may begin soon after delivery or happen years later.”

The combination of the increased weight of the uterus during pregnancy, the stretching of the pelvic floor during delivery and the hormones produced in pregnancy all contribute to the likelihood of experiencing bladder leaking postpartum.

Having a higher body mass index (BMI) during and after pregnancy can increase your chances of bladder leaking, per a study in Cureus, as well as having a vaginal delivery (associated with a 50 percent greater chance over women who have a Cesarean delivery). 

How long does bladder leaking last postpartum?

Most women who experience bladder leaking after childbirth find that it resolves within a few weeks to up to six months post-delivery or after the pregnancy ends. 

However, for some women it can take months to heal, and many women like Shannon find that their pelvic floor never recovers fully and that they experience some degree of bladder leaking for years. 

Getting proper treatment as quickly as possible is essential to help ensure that bladder leaking doesn’t become your “new normal.”

Bladder leaking is not normal and it doesn’t need to be your new reality

This is a good time to really emphasize that while it might be common to experience bladder leaking postpartum, it’s not normal and it’s not something you should just accept as one of those things that comes with being a mom, along with sleepless nights.

After working with so many women throughout the years, I’ve seen first hand the shame and embarrassment that comes with bladder leaking. So much so, that two-thirds of women don’t even tell their own doctors about it. That’s a crazy statistic, isn’t it?

To me, the saddest part of this shame is that, as a result, often women just deal with this issue on their own, “embrace the suck” and avoid enjoying the full breadth of their life. 

Many women even give up doing things that they love as a result of bladder leaking- like running, hiking, or bouncing on the trampoline with their kids.

Feeling embarrassed can also make it harder for women to get the resources and help that they need to recover, heal and get back to living life fully without bladder leaking constantly being in the back of their minds.

Every woman dealing with bladder leaking deserves better. And if you’re a woman dealing with this, I want you to know that you deserve better. 

So what can you do about it?

Postpartum Urinary Incontinence Treatments


Ah, kegel exercises. Most women cringe (or yawn) at the thought of them, but this is probably the first “prescription” that most women will receive from their doctors for bladder leaking. Kegels can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to relieve bladder leaking when it’s due to a weak pelvic floor.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

A pelvic floor physical therapist will do a thorough exam of your pelvic floor and personalize a treatment based on your own unique body. For many women, bladder leaking isn’t simply due to a weak pelvic floor, but to a dynamic interplay of many different factors. A pelvic floor physical therapist will identify the cause of your bladder leaking and provide a bespoke treatment plan for you.

Bladder training

It turns out that your bladder can actually learn some new tricks, one of which is learning how to hold your urine for a longer period of time. Bladder training is a type of behavioral training where you train your bladder to urinate less often.


A pessary is a device that comes in many shapes and sizes that is inserted into the vagina to provide support for the vagina, bladder and urethra.

Surgical treatments

Surgical options are available in more extreme cases of bladder leaking when other treatment methods haven’t been effective.  

Belly Dancing

Most women don’t know this, but belly dancing is a natural and effective way to strengthen the pelvic floor while also having fun and getting a great workout.

I realize I probably threw you for a loop with that last one. Believe me, I was surprised when I discovered this as a solution too.

You could call it a “happy accident” (yes, pun intended).

Let me give you a little backstory to give you some context.

I’ve been a professional belly dance instructor and performer for 20+ years. In 2014, I was teaching my weekly belly dance class when one of my students came up to me with a huge smile on her face. She said with excitement, “I have something to tell you!”.

“Since I’ve been belly dancing, I don’t have bladder leakage anymore!”. She was thrilled because she could go back to doing all the things she loved without fear of leaking. 

Fast forward to 2019 when I created my signature program, The Belly Dance Solution, to help women strengthen their pelvic floor and relieve bladder leaking with belly dancing.

Since then, I’ve had over 25,000 women join this program and many have had incredible results in improving (or even completely eliminating) their bladder leaking. 

Women like Rhonda who shared in a Woman’s World magazine article about how belly dancing helped completely eliminate her bladder leaking after suffering with it for 25 years. 

How does belly dance work to strengthen the pelvic floor?

Because so many belly dance movements involve the hips and pelvis, they naturally involve the pelvic floor muscles and build strength in this area. Also, because belly dance movements have both a contraction and a relaxation phase, it has a built in safety valve to ensure that the pelvic floor muscles don’t become overly contracted and “hypertonic” but rather are both strong and relaxed. 

And, believe it or not, it’s actually backed by research! In a study that appeared in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science they found belly dancing to be effective in relieving bladder leaking.

There is a solution for you

On one of my recent coaching calls with Shannon she said to me, “Was it really this easy all along?”.

In only 8 weeks of belly dancing her bladder leaking symptoms have reduced by at least 50 percent and she’s finally feeling like she’s getting her life back.

She went from her doctor recommending surgery, wearing 3-5 pads per day and constantly having bladder leaking on her mind to being able to go on hikes again.

No matter what solutions for your bladder leaking you explore, I want you to know that there is a solution for you and that you can live a life free from bladder leaking.

I want to inspire and encourage you to not give up years of your life and precious memories with your loved ones due to bladder leaking.

For moms of all ages, it’s important that we don’t normalize and accept it as a way of life.

Because getting help can really be that easy all along.


  • Jennifer Sobel

    Jennifer Sobel is a professional belly dance instructor and fitness expert who has been featured in top fitness publications and is known for her unique approach to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through belly dancing. When she's not shimmying, Jennifer loves trying new air fryer recipes, going on wine-tasting adventures, and facing her fears (and laughing her butt off) in improv class. 

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