What’s Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder control that causes urine leakage. It is estimated that over 25 million adult Americans experience some degree of urinary incontinence, with twice as many women being affected than men. Urinary incontinence in women can occur at any age but is more common in older women. 1 in 4 women, over the age of 40, will experience urinary incontinence. Though more common with age, urinary incontinence is not a normal part of aging, and it can be treated.
Most Common Types of Female Incontinence
The two most common types of urinary incontinence in women are: Urge Incontinence and Stress Incontinence. Women may also experience mixed incontinence, which is a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
- Urge Incontinence: Women experiencing urge incontinence feel a strong, sudden urge to urinate frequently. During these urges, women can experience urine leakage. Urge incontinence is sometimes referred to as “overactive bladder” and is more common in older women.
- Stress Incontinence: Occurs when there is stress or pressure on the bladder. Leakage can occur from everyday actions that use the pelvic floor muscles, such as coughing, sneezing, exercising, or laughing. Stress incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence in women.
Why Women are Affected More by Urinary Incontinence
Incontinence is not a singular issue but rather a symptom of several factors. The urethra is shorter in women than in men so any damage or weakness to the female urethra is more likely to result in urinary incontinence. Health events unique to women, such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, may affect the bladder and surrounding muscles’ abilities to properly function. Pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, urethra, uterus, and bowels. Weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles, is the most common cause of female incontinence.
- Pregnancy: 40% of women experience urinary incontinence during pregnancy. While pregnant, extra pressure from the baby is placed on the bladder, urethra, and pelvic floor muscles. This may weaken pelvic floor muscles causing urinary leaks.
- Childbirth: Vaginal birth and labor can cause nerve damage in the bladder, urethra, or pelvic floor muscles.
- Menopause: Incontinence is very common during and after menopause. Menopause causes lower levels of estrogen which is associated with the loss of vaginal tissue elasticity and weakening of pelvic floor muscles
Other common causes of female incontinence and trauma to the pelvic floor muscles include: obesity, nerve damage, constipation, hysterectomy, cognitive impairment, and chronic cough.
There are both surgical and nonsurgical treatments available, depending on the cause and severity of your incontinence. Be sure to talk with your primary care provider, OB/GYN, or nurse practitioner about your incontinence symptoms, so you can create a treatment plan that works best for you. Protective underwear is a great, discreet option to keep you dry during the day. For chronic nighttime incontinence, a SaniSnooze™ Mattress Cover is an ideal solution to ensure you stay dry all night while still enjoying maximum comfort and therapeutic sleep.
Incontinence is not something you have to struggle with and should not be considered a normal part of aging. Incontinence does not define you and it is something you can have control over with treatment. Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor about your experience to find a solution.
**The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. If you are having a severe and sudden change in physical or mental health, please call 911, contact a local emergency facility or consult with your doctor. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider, and never disregard the advice given because of information you have received from our website.**