If you experience leakage every time you cough, laugh, sneeze or jump, you aren't alone. Urinary incontinence is common and more frequently affects women than men. The chance of experiencing urinary incontinence increases as women age, but it is never “normal” and can be treated.
Severity ranges from an occasional leak to a sudden urge to pee.
Women may experience a wide range of severity from an occasional leak when you cough, laugh or sneeze (stress incontinence) to a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate—so severe that you can’t get to a toilet in time (urge incontinence). Both situations can have a significant impact on your quality of life, and make it unnerving to engage socially with friends and family when you don’t know when leakage might occur. Sometimes, it really doesn’t matter that you’ve emptied your bladder beforehand, you can still find yourself in a “pressing” situation.
Treating incontinence doesn't always mean surgery.
Many women find that incontinence simply creeps up on them. One day, they begin to experience a minor problem. A few years later, they find themselves crossing their legs every time they cough or laugh. They may have even discontinued a favorite activity or exercise—such as running—because their leaky bladder became unmanageable. That’s the point when many women finally decide to seek advice from a medical provider. The good news is that treatment doesn’t always mean surgery.
Your doctor will suggest the least invasive treatment first.
A Kegel exercise involves relaxing and tightening the muscles that control urine flow. If you are uncertain whether or not you are doing the exercise correctly, a physical therapist who specializes in bladder problems—or your gynecologist—can help. It can take several months for your incontinence to lessen once you start doing Kegel exercises, so don’t be discouraged and give your exercise routine the time it needs to make an impact.
Bladder retraining. Bladder retraining is another nonsurgical option that may be recommended in conjunction with Kegel exercises. It’s a type of behavioral therapy that teaches an individual to hold a larger amount of urine for a longer period of time—without incident.
Medications. There are also several medications to treat incontinence in men and women. Most are useful for urge incontinence.
Seek help from your medical provider.
These are just a few treatment options available. Your doctor—including me—will likely suggest the least invasive treatment first before moving to a surgical option if these techniques fail.
If your occasional problem has turned into a bigger issue that is impacting your quality of life, the first step is to seek help from your medical provider.