What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence (UI), or loss of bladder control, is the involuntary leaking of urine. UI can be mild or severe, ranging from a few leaked drops to significant wetting. UI may include:
- An immediate urge to urinate that can’t always be controlled
- Involuntary leakage before you can make it to a bathroom
- Involuntary leakage while coughing or during sexual intercourse
What causes urinary incontinence?
Women are two times more likely than men to develop UI, largely because of the stresses and hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Pregnancy increases pressure on pelvic floor muscles and can leave them weaker, while vaginal childbirth may exacerbate pelvic floor weakness or damage the nerves that control bladder function. Although these effects are typically resolved within a few months of childbirth, they can persist longer, especially for women who have had more than one baby.
Many women experience UI for the first time following menopause when declining estrogen levels make urethral tissues thinner and weaker than before.
Are there different types of urinary incontinence?
The various types of UI are defined by their symptoms and underlying causes. Most women are affected by one of the following:
The most common form of UI involves leakage that occurs when physical movement puts pressure on your bladder. Women with stress incontinence typically dribble urine when they cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or lift something heavy.
Urge incontinence, or an overactive bladder, involves the immediate urge to urinate followed by uncontrolled leakage. Urge incontinence often happens when it’s not expected, such as when you’re asleep or when you hear running water.
Many women have mixed incontinence, meaning they have symptoms of both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
How is urinary incontinence diagnosed?
UI diagnosis begins with a comprehensive review of your medical history and a complete physical exam. If your doctor suspects you have an infection, they may perform a urinalysis.
They may also perform a urodynamic test to evaluate your bladder function. If this test shows that your bladder doesn’t empty completely, it may indicate that you have a blockage in your urinary tract, or a problem with the nerves or muscles that control your bladder.
How is urinary incontinence treated?
Whenever possible, the team at Pure OBGYN uses a conservative UI treatment approach that incorporates lifestyle changes, bladder training, physical therapy, and bladder support devices.
Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet can help control UI, as can changing any prescription medications that may be contributing to your problem. Losing excess body weight can reduce pressure on your bladder while performing pelvic floor exercises can give you better bladder control.
If these methods don’t work, you may find success with medication, biofeedback therapy, or surgery. To learn more, call your nearest Pure OBGYN office or book an appointment online today.