Even though urinary incontinence is extremely prevalent and currently affects over 13 million Americans, it’s actually incredibly more common in aging women. Urinary incontinence in women occurs at a rate of 2 to1 compared to men due to childbirth, menopause, and the structure of female anatomy. Learn about incontinence causes, prevention, and treatment options.
Types Of Urinary Incontinence In Women
The incontinence definition simply states that it’s the lack of voluntary control over urination of defecation. Generally, this condition results in the accidental voiding of urine from the bladder and increases with age and peaks between the ages of 60 to 80.
The main types of female incontinence include:
Stress Incontinence – Stress incontinence, the most common type of incontinence in both men and women occurs when pressure from activities such as laughing, sneezing, lifting something heavy, or exercising. This happens when the pelvic floor muscles have become weakened and pressure from the bladder causes them to work harder and often results in urine leakage.
Urge Incontinence – urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder in women occurs when you experience a sudden, strong urge to urinate and may not make it to a restroom in time. Urge incontinence is associated with frequent urination, and some women experience to urge to urinate over 8 times a day.
While urinary incontinence can be caused by being overweight, nerve damage, medications, bladder infections, and more that can create incontinence symptoms in both men and women. However, two factors that contribute to only women include pregnancy and menopause.
Pregnancy – Pregnancy contributes to incontinence by increasing pressure on the bladder. As your baby grows organs shift to make space, adding weight to the bladder, urethra, and pelvic floor muscles.
The process of giving birth via C-section or natural delivery can contribute to incontinence as well because the pelvic muscles stretch and weaken during delivery. Also, your bladder could sag, your pelvic nerves could become damaged, and the opening of your urethra could stretch.
Sara Chana, IBCLC and mom of 7 explained, “I have clients every day who come in with incontinence. Our biggest problem is that the way our bodies are created our bladders lay is under the uterus! ( I would have placed the bladder on top of the uterus if someone asked me!) During pregnancies, our uterus stretches and it puts pressure on our little bladders. Pushing a baby out, especially improperly and in the wrong position, can overstretch our ligaments which allows the uterus to fall inappropriately on our bladders after birth and for the rest of our lives! So many women in American have prolapsed uteruses that literally lay on top of the bladder not allowing it to work properly. As for menopausal women, as we age, things begin to hang, and after a few kids, and possible being constipated and pushing too hard to have a bowel movement creates prolapse of all the lower organs and the result? Incontinence. Why men don’t have it? No kids, no uterus, with constipation they just get hemorrhoids.”
Menopause – Many women develop incontinence around the same time they enter menopause because the body begins to produce less estrogen. As a result, the lining of the urethra can thin and the pelvic muscles can weaken with age.
If you are experiencing incontinence symptoms it’s important to visit your doctor. They may be able to determine the cause or put together a confident management plan to prevent accidents. Incontinence isn’t a normal part of aging and could be caused by a more serious condition. It’s important to note that some cases of incontinence can be cured, but in many cases, it can only be managed. That being said, know that incontinence can be managed comfortably and confidently.
There are a few things you can do to prevent and reduces incontinence symptoms:
- Practice Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Do this exercise about three times a day with about 3 reps per session by tightening the muscles involved with holding your urine and holding them for about 10 seconds. Hold your pelvic muscles for longer periods of time as they get stronger.
- Adopt a healthier lifestyle to reduce pressure on your urinary tract by quitting smoking, eating healthier with fruits, veggies, and whole grains, moderately exercising a few times a week, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, and by avoiding irritants such as spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Reduce financial stress by having your incontinence supplies covered through insurance. Take a moment to qualify here then relax as your products are discreetly shipped to your home. You’ll be matched with the perfect items to prevent accidents and confidently return to your normal daily routine.
If the lifestyle changes above don’t assist with improving your condition there are medications available to help control urges. There are also a few different surgeries that involve inserting items such as slings to support your urethra. Speaking with your doctor is the best way to determine your options.