If you’re afraid to laugh too hard or travel far from a restroom, you might be experiencing some of the negative effects brought on by urinary incontinence. Between 25 and 45 percent of women of all ages experience some degree of incontinence, a treatable condition where you have trouble controlling your bladder.
Though it can be embarrassing to discuss, speaking with your doctor about any incontinence issues is the first step toward finding the right treatment and regaining control of your bladder.
Causes of incontinence
Urinary incontinence is sometimes caused by temporary issues like certain medications or a urinary tract infection. It’s also caused by longer-lasting issues with your bladder or pelvic muscles. Women are twice as likely as men to experience urinary incontinence due to the effects of pregnancy, motherhood and menopause.
Effects that can cause incontinence include:
- Hormone changes during pregnancy or menopause
- Weight or strain on the bladder during pregnancy and childbirth
- Muscle and ligament changes after hysterectomy
- Nerves damaged by childbirth
- Neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease that affect bladder control
- Aging’s effects on the bladder and urethra
- Prolapsed or fallen bladder due to childbirth
Many of the causes of incontinence can be treated to restore normal bladder function.
The symptoms of urinary incontinence may be as mild as minor leakages to being unable to reach the bathroom in time. You might experience different types of symptoms, depending on how severe your condition is.
- Stress incontinence. Stress on your bladder from laughing, sneezing, coughing or lifting weight causes your bladder to release a small amount of pee.
- Urge incontinence. You may feel the need to use the restroom urgently throughout the day.
- Overflow incontinence. Since your bladder doesn’t empty completely, you experience a small stream of urine often throughout the day.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consider speaking to your OB/GYN about a treatment that is right for you.
Nonsurgical treatments might include:
- Bladder training. You can experience less urge incontinence by slowly training your bladder to wait longer and longer to use the restroom after you experience an urge to go.
- Diet changes. Drinking less fluid or avoiding certain substances like caffeine or alcohol can help you have more control over using the restroom.
- New bathroom practices. You may find it easier to schedule time to use the restroom every few hours rather than waiting to go. You may also use the restroom, wait a few minutes, then use the restroom again to help control overflow incontinence.
- Pelvic floor exercises. Physical therapists can help you build up stronger pelvic floor muscles, the muscles that hold up your bladder and control urination.
- Medicines. Medicines can help you control urges and keep your bladder relaxed.
- Electrical stimulations. Temporary electrical stimulation of the nerves and muscles around your bladder can help you regain control. Permanent nerve stimulation devices may also help with urge incontinence.
- Botox injections. Botox injections can help relax the nerves and muscles around the bladder, giving you better control.
If nonsurgical treatments don’t help with your incontinence, you and your physician can explore surgical incontinence treatments, including:
- Sling procedures. A surgeon can place a sling of your own tissue or synthetic tissue to hold up your urethra and stop incontinence.
- Prolapse surgery. During this surgery, your physician repairs any bladder prolapse or other conditions that cause incontinence.