Did you know that the most common complication found among women who have undergone hysterectomies is pelvic floor dysfunction? Did you also know that hysterectomies increase the risk of incontinence in women?
If you’re one of the 600,000 women who have had a hysterectomy and are experiencing incontinence, don’t worry.
This post will explain why you're experiencing incontinence and provide you with 8 ways to manage your incontinence so you can regain your quality of life.
Why Might I Need A Hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or a combination of these parts in women.
Hysterectomies are usually done to treat chronic menstruation pain, heavy bleeding, endometriosis, uterine fibroids (tumors that are not cancerous), pelvic organ prolapses such as uterine prolapse, cervical cancer, and uterine lining issues.
Only your healthcare provider can tell you if you need a hysterectomy.
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Your hysterectomy may come with side effects, including:
- Vaginal dryness.
- Female urinary incontinence.
- Hot flushes.
- Sleeping problems.
The complications of a hysterectomy are blood clots and damage to the urinary tract, among others.
It’s important to remember that not all side effects of hysterectomies are negative; having the procedure done can significantly increase your quality of life if you’ve been suffering from pelvic pain, endometriosis, certain cancers, or heavy menstruation.
Why Do Hysterectomies Cause Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is a loss of bladder control that commonly leads to urinary leakage, although incontinence may not be experienced until years after the procedure occurs.
Urinary incontinence can happen after a hysterectomy because the procedure affects your pelvic muscles to a great degree. In fact, in an observational study, PubMed reports that 60% of women who undergo hysterectomies have an increased risk of experiencing incontinence.
There are a couple of reasons you may experience incontinence after a hysterectomy.
- Your uterus is near your bladder nerves, and these nerves can sometimes become damaged during the removal of your uterus. Nerve damage is a common cause of incontinence.
- Your uterus keeps the pelvic floor muscles strong and helps support them so they don’t sag, which helps support your bladder. When your uterus is removed, the decrease in bladder support can lead to incontinence.
- Hysterectomies may damage your urinary sphincter, which helps hold your urine in and stops it from leaking. This can lead to incontinence and leakage.
- Your ovaries, which produce the hormone estrogen in your body, may be removed during the surgery. Estrogen helps support your pelvic floor muscles, so when the ovaries are removed and estrogen levels decrease, your pelvic floor weakens, leading to incontinence.
The types of incontinence you may experience depend on the type of hysterectomy you undergo, such as a total abdominal hysterectomy. However, the main types of incontinence you can experience after undergoing a vaginal hysterectomy are:
Urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is also known as overactive bladder (OAB.) This kind of incontinence is characterized by the sudden and uncontrollable urge to pee and frequent urination. In addition, urge incontinence can cause leakage.
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI). SUI is common among women who have hysterectomies. SUI happens when you leak urine when engaging in certain physical activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or exercising.
How Can I Treat My Incontinence?
There are many ways you can decrease your risk of developing incontinence and manage your symptoms at home and with the help of women’s health professionals.
1. Speak With Your Healthcare Provider
You should never be embarrassed about incontinence!
It is widespread among women who have had hysterectomies, but it’s also common among women in general.
In a meta-analysis from The Lancet Journal, it was found that 3,500 women reported incontinence in the US. It’s also known that 75% of women age 65 and older are at higher risk of incontinence.
Your healthcare provider may be able to provide treatment options and help you make a plan to manage your incontinence.
If you’re experiencing incontinence after a hysterectomy, you should always make a follow-up appointment with your provider.
3. Give Bladder Training a Try
You retrain your bladder to hold in urine for more extended periods during bladder training.
By urinating on a timed schedule, you can increase the time you can hold your urine and wait between visits to the bathroom.
To begin bladder training, you can hold your urine for 5 minutes every time you feel like you need to urinate. After you can hold it for 5 minutes, double that time to 10 minutes, and so on.
Eventually, you may be able to hold your urine for much more extended periods.
4. Keep a Bladder Diary
Keeping a bladder diary may help you notice what’s causing your incontinence and aid in bladder training.
A bladder diary may also be helpful for your provider when discussing your incontinence.
You should keep track of the following things in your bladder diary: The time you voided, how much fluids you drank, what activity you engaged in, and if you experienced leakage.
5. Get Comfortable With Incontinence Products
While you shouldn’t be embarrassed to use incontinence products, standing in a store aisle, unsure of what incontinence products to buy, can be unnerving.
Adult briefs, pull-on underwear, and bladder control pads are great ways to manage your leakage.
Plus, if you use Aeroflow Urology’s services, you may be eligible to receive incontinence products for free. That’s right! Your insurance may cover your incontinence products, and you’ll get a curated shopping list to choose supplies from. All you have to do is fill out our Eligibility Form to see if you qualify. It takes less than 5 minutes.
6. Use a Pessary
A vaginal pessary is a flexible, removable device inserted into your vagina. The pessary helps hold up your urethra, improve your urine flow, and catch leakage. Speak with your healthcare provider about getting a vaginal pessary.
7. Try Acupuncture
While extensive clinical trials are needed for more conclusions, one study found acupuncture for incontinence post-hysterectomy to be effective and safe.
Acupuncture is an alternative medicine in which needles are inserted into the skin. The placement of the needles is determined by which parts of the body are being targeted for treatment.
The study found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for incontinence because acupuncture stimulates muscles and nerves and can regulate their functions. Bonus— acupuncture was also found to relieve constipation.
8. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eat fresh vegetables and fruits, consume lots of fiber, drink enough water, and avoid bladder irritants, such as spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, and certain citrus fruits.
How Aeroflow Urology Can Help
Aeroflow Urology can provide incontinence products at little to no cost through Medicaid and some private insurance plans— all you need to do is fill out our form to see if you’re eligible.
We offer adult briefs, Poise and bladder control pads, gloves, wipes, and adult pull-on underwear.
See If Your Eligible & the Aeroflow Process
Simply follow these steps to see if you can get incontinence supplies for free!
Step 1. Fill out our qualify form. It takes less than 5 minutes. Just have your insurance card at hand.
Step 2. If you qualify, our Continence Care Specialists will reach out to you to answer any questions you may have. They’ll also fill out all of the necessary paperwork.
Step 3. You’ll be given a curated shopping list to choose incontinence products from.
Step 4. Your products will be shipped directly to your home in discreet packaging, so you won’t have to take more store trips while you recover from your surgery. We’ll also send you text or email reminders when it’s time to get free incontinence supplies again so you won’t run out.
The Hysterectomy and Incontinence Connection. (2016, June 20). Healthgrades. https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/overactive-bladder/the-hysterectomy-and-incontinence-connection
Wilke, M. (n.d.). Will I suffer from a leaky bladder after a hysterectomy? Health24. https://www.news24.com/health24/medical/incontinence/incontinence-in-women/will-i-suffer-from-a-leaky-bladder-after-a-hysterectomy-20190408
Brown, J. S., Sawaya, G., Thom, D. H., & Grady, D. (2000). Hysterectomy and urinary incontinence: a systematic review. The Lancet, 356(9229), 535–539. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(00)02577-0
Magos, A. (2007). Does hysterectomy cause urinary incontinence? The Lancet, 370(9597), 1462–1463. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(07)61613-4
Sun, J., Zhang, X., Cao, T., & Song, Y. (2019). Treatment of urinary incontinence after total hysterectomy with acupuncture: A case report. Medicine, 98(20), e15687.https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000015687
Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.