Why Do I Pee When I Sneeze or Cough?

coughing and sneeze and peeing

Do you leak when you sneeze or cough? Maybe even when you laugh or bend over?

If so, you’re experiencing something called stress urinary incontinence (SUI), and this type of leakage is common among adults.

Incontinence can be disruptive to your daily life, but many treatment options are available, and there are lots of things you can do to help prevent leakage. Read on to discover why you leak when you sneeze or cough and to get helpful tips on how to handle your (very common) symptoms.

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What Is Stress Urinary Incontinence?

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a type of urinary incontinence that’s often discussed when talking about women’s health because it affects 1 in 4 women, but there are an estimated 3.4 million men with stress incontinence.

If you have SUI, urine leaks from your body during times of physical activity or movement.

What Causes SUI?

This type of incontinence is caused by the weakening or stretching of your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the urinary sphincter, so as they grow weaker, your urethra loses its ability to hold in urine.

When it comes to urinary incontinence in women, common causes of SUI include:

  • Vaginal-delivery childbirth.
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Chronic coughing.
  • Nerve injuries to the lower back.
  • Pelvic surgery, such as a hysterectomy.
  • Aging
Woman coughing and leaking from incontinenceWoman coughing and leaking from incontinence

In men, the most common causes of SUI include:

  • Prostate surgery.
  • Chronic coughing.
  • Lower back injuries.
  • Aging

What Are the Symptoms of SUI?

Unlike urge incontinence and overactive bladder (OAB) (which occur when you have a sudden urge to urinate), SUI occurs when the feeling of voiding is not present. However, it is possible to experience a combination of both SUI and OAB / urge incontinence, called mixed incontinence.

The main symptom of SUI is urine leakage. This can occur when you engage in physical activities or movements that relate to abdominal pressure, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Having sex.
  • Coughing
  • Lifting heavy objects.
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Bending over (usually more common in severe cases of SUI).
  • Laughing

Who Is at Risk for Developing SUI?

Risk factors for developing SUI include:

  • Weight gain or obesity.
  • History of lower back pain.
  • Overactive bladder.
  • Smoking
  • Being over the age of 65.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse.
  • History of high-impact activity.
  • Constipation
  • Use of tampons (this can occur in some women with prolapse and SUI).
Elderly people at risk for peeing when they sneeze or coughElderly people at risk for peeing when they sneeze or cough

How to Stop Peeing When You Cough or Sneeze

If you’ve experienced SUI when going about your day, you know it can sometimes be challenging to deal with. Here are some immediate and long-term solutions you can try out to manage your SUI symptoms.

Immediate Solutions

Give these immediate solutions a try. They may help decrease the amount of urine that comes out when engaging in activities that usually cause leakage.

  • Contract your pelvic floor before sneezing or coughing. Try to do a kegel and contract your pelvic floor muscles before the sneeze or cough comes out. This could help close the urethra further.
  • Bend or sit down when coughing or sneezing. Sitting or bending changes the positioning of your body and may help decrease leakage by providing you with physical support.
  • Try incontinence products. Products like adult briefs can help you stress less about leaking.

Long-erm Solutions

More long-term solutions for SUI symptoms can be helpful to use in your daily life.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking can lead to lots of coughing and it irritates the bladder, so stop smoking to prevent further loss of pelvic floor muscle strength.
  • Do some kegel exercises. Pelvic floor exercises are great for toning and engaging your pelvic muscles. And, contrary to popular belief, these exercises are for both men and women.
  • Limit bladder irritants. Irritants such as alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your nervous system and the lining of your bladder, so try to cut down on them.
Long term solutions for managing incontinence while peeingLong term solutions for managing incontinence while peeing
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Weight loss and maintaining a healthy body weight have been shown to reduce symptoms of SUI because the extra pressure the weight puts on your pelvic floor muscles is lessened.
  • See a physical therapist. Physical therapy can engage your pelvic floor muscles and may help improve their strength, reducing leakage.
  • Look into surgery. In severe cases of SUI, surgery, such as a sling procedure, may be able to help both women and men.
  • Try a vaginal pessary. Vaginal pessaries are an option for women and help support the bladder and decrease leakage.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider. If you’re experiencing SUI and leakage that interrupts your quality of life, you should speak with a healthcare professional.

Bladder wellness is a big part of our lives. If you’re experiencing symptoms that are causing a loss in quality of life, be sure to try these tips and speak with a healthcare professional to see what you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor.

How Aeroflow Urology Can Help

We know that leakage can interrupt your daily life and hold you back from engaging in activities you usually enjoy.

Aeroflow Urology can help you get back to doing those physically engaging things you love like exercising, laughing, and dancing, by supplying you with incontinence supplies covered through your Medicaid and some private health insurance plans.

Want to see if you qualify? Read how it works below.


How It Works

Instead of heading to the store to find and purchase incontinence products, you can simply fill out our qualification form that you see at the top of this page. It's quick and easy to do. 

If approved, your incontinence supplies will be shipped directly to your home in discreet packaging on a monthly basis, ensuring privacy and ease of use.

Plus, we'll send you a reminder text or email when the month is over, so you'll never run out of incontinence supplies again!


WebMD. (n.d.). Incontinence in men: Treatment and management. WebMD. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/ss/slideshow-male-incontinence#:~:text=Urinary%20Incontinence%20Is%20Common%20and%20Treatable&text=About%203.4%20million%20men%20in,It's%20a%20treatable%20condition

*, N. (2022, January 7). 6 ways to eliminate leaks when you sneeze or cough. Laura Jawad. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.laurajawad.com/post/5-ways-to-support-your-pelvic-floor-when-you-have-a-cold-or-chronic-cough/


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.