If you experience occasional urine leakage, you’re not alone. Stress incontinence is common, especially among women. In fact, according to the Office of Women’s Health, it affects up to twice as many women as men. This may be because pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can affect your bladder, urethra and other muscles that support these organs. The important thing to remember is that the right treatment can help you effectively manage symptoms.
Stress incontinence is a temporary loss of bladder control that leads to urine leakage. This often occurs when there’s pressure on your abdomen, for example when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise. Even raising your voice may be enough to trigger leakage.
In addition to pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, other factors that may increase your risk for stress incontinence include genetics, older age, being obese or overweight, chronic straining with bowel movements and smoking.
For many women, stress incontinence is an embarrassing condition that leads to limitations of daily activities. For example, they may no longer exercise or play with their kids due to fear of leakage. Over time, this can greatly impact quality of life. If you experience symptoms that limit your daily activities, it’s time to get evaluated by your doctor.
During your appointment, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history in addition to performing a physical exam. Once stress incontinence is diagnosed, there are several treatment options:
- Behavioral modifications – Taking steps to maintain a healthy body weight, staying active and doing physical therapy to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles may help reduce symptoms.
- Vaginal pessary – A small plastic or silicone device is placed in your vagina to support your pelvic anatomy and reduce leakage.
- Bulking agents – A bulking agent is injected into tissues around your urethra to cause them to thicken. This helps reduces the amount of urine that is able to leak out.
- Urethral sling surgery – This minimally invasive procedure involves using a sling to support your urethra. Patients typically recover quickly from this outpatient procedure and only have activity restrictions for the first few weeks after surgery.
Edward-Elmhurst Health encourages women to get evaluated for stress incontinence symptoms. We provide community lectures to increase awareness for pelvic floor conditions and work with our primary care providers to help identify and manage these conditions.