Urinary Incontinence is twice as prevalent in women as it is in males. Millions of women suffer from some type of female incontinence, with 1 in 3 women reporting that they have experienced bladder leakage at some point in their lifetime.
Furthermore, leakage problems tend to increase as women age. Why is this? Well, to put it simply, it is because of the unique biological changes that women undergo and the effect these have on the female body. Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can all be contributors to women’s bladder control issues.
The degree or severity of leakage can range from a drop or two to completely wetting oneself. It may happen when sneezing or coughing or result from sudden, uncontrollable urges to urinate. It can happen during sexual activity or in the middle of the night. Regardless, any degree of urine leakage in women is usually embarrassing and distressing and can have a negative impact on quality of life.
Female Incontinence Causes
What causes female incontinence? Generally speaking, UI is occurring because bladder muscles suddenly or abnormally contract (as in overactive bladder and Urge incontinence) or if the sphincter muscles around the urethra aren’t strong enough to contain urine flow. Stress incontinence occurs when physical activity puts pressure on these weakened muscles. The combination of these two types is known as mixed incontinence in women. But urine leakage as it specifically regards the female anatomy can have its basic roots in three major biological shifts. These are as follows.
Babies in the womb tend to push down and put pressure on the bladder and muscles that control urinary flow. This pressure can compromise the support of the pelvic floor and cause urinary leakage in women.
It is quite common for women to find that they are leaking urine after childbirth. The stress of labor and vaginal birth can lead to a weakened pelvic floor and nerve damage around the bladder. Once the muscles have time to heal, the symptoms of UI can abate within a few months. However, some women find they may need to perform pelvic muscle exercises in order to stay on top of their urinary incontinence.
Following menopause, the female body stops making estrogen. There is cause to believe that estrogen loss is linked with decreased strength of urethral tissue, thus leading to a higher frequency of urine leakage.
These are the standard root causes that can lead to female urinary incontinence. However, causes can vary for each woman. It could be a single factor or a combination of factors as determined by a physician. For example, a urinary tract infection may exacerbate urinary leakage as well as side effects from a hysterectomy. But both women and men can suffer from urinary incontinence caused by a variety of issues. Please consult Incontinence Guide’s page on urinary incontinence for a detailed look at the condition and its types.
Female Incontinence Treatments
Depending on the causes of one’s urinary incontinence and its sub-type, there are many treatment options available for women. The first group of treatments you can explore without a doctor’s assistance. These include protective undergarments, behavior therapies, and pelvic floor exercises (known as Kegels). The second group requires a physician’s plan for restoring your continence, as opposed to just managing it. This can involve physical therapy regimens, medications, injections to bulk up urethral tissue, vaginal pessary devices or surgical options.
The following addresses treatments specific to the type of urinary incontinence a woman may be experiencing:
Female Stress Incontinence
Today there are is a wide range of treatment approaches to stress incontinence in women, from lifestyle changes to exercise to surgical options. Weight loss and quitting smoking have been reported to greatly reduce the incidence of female incontinence related to stress, as have reducing your general overall consumption of liquid, caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol.
In terms of exercise, the most frequently employed and most beneficial approach for women under 60 are Kegel exercises. Kegels specifically target the pelvic muscles. Over time, building the strength back up in your pelvic floor and sphincter muscles has been shown to dramatically reduce urinary leakage due to stress incontinence.
Surgical options, commonly used for more severe cases of leakage, may include urethropexy, vaginal slings or transvaginal tape. Finally, for topical alleviation of stress urinary incontinence, there are a number of absorbent undergarments and adult diapers on the market to help keep you feeling cool and confident.
Female Urge Incontinence
Treatment approaches are far-ranging for urge incontinence in women as it concerned with overactive bladder and can generally be classified into two categories: behavioral and medical.
Simple lifestyle shifts, such as using the bathroom with greater frequency, avoiding overconsumption of fluids and caffeine or avoiding fluids before bed. Keeping a chart of urinary incidence, known as timed voiding, which helps you keep track of patterns that can help you plan to void your bladder before an accident occurs. Incrementally increasing the time between bathroom visits and employing Kegels (pelvic floor exercises) can over time strengthen urinary muscles and thus lead to better urinary control.
Various medications as a second line of defense if behavioral management is not working. Some have been found to reduce the incidence of urge incontinence substantially. Electrical stimulation of nerves believed to affect bladder contraction. Invasive surgeries aiming to enlarge the bladder’s capacity for urine, mediate nerves that cause abnormal bladder contraction or divert urinary flow.
Female Functional Incontinence
The clearest approach to treating functional incontinence is first of all properly diagnosing and treating the condition that is causing it. Following that, there are steps that can be taken to try and limit urinary accidents when attempting to make it to the bathroom. For example, improving accessibility to one’s bathroom and always being aware of restroom locations when out in public can make the trip to the toilet much more efficient.
Additionally, there are exercises that may help with functional incontinence that are useful for other types of female incontinence. These may include bladder retraining programs or pelvic floor exercises. For those where functional incontinence has become a fact of life there is an astonishing array of female incontinence products available to ease symptoms, from incontinence pads and undergarments to bedpans and portable urinals.
Female Incontinence Products
There are a number of products on the market to help women manage their urinary incontinence. Incontinence Guide strives to give you the best information regarding these products, reviews the most popular and offers free samples and trials when new products come onto the scene.