Urinary Incontinence in Women: What You Need to Know About Female Incontinence
Physical and hormonal factors like pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and the female urinary tract all make women more likely to develop urinary incontinence at some time in their life. But with proper diagnosis, treatment, and management techniques, incontinence can be a cured or at least improved.
Currently, more than 70% of people struggling with incontinence failing to seek diagnosis or treatment, even though up to 80% of incontinence cases are curable or treatable. Women experiencing bladder leakage, overactive bladder, or any form of urinary incontinence should seek help from a medical professional to diagnose and address the issues.
In this article, we’ll walk through the causes of female incontinence, options for female incontinence treatment, and tips for managing the condition.
What is female incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the accidental or involuntary loss of bladder control, which women experience twice as often as men. But just because women are affected by incontinence more often than men does not mean they need to resign themselves to living with it.
“It is certainly not an inevitable consequence of aging,” writes the World Health Organization (WHO), who says Incontinence is largely preventable and treatable. “The most typical reaction exhibited by patients when they are diagnosed with poor bladder control was not fear nor disbelief, but relief.”
Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Women
About 10 percent of American women under 65 years old and 35 of women older than 65 experience Urinary Incontinence, and those rates increase significantly in women in care facilities and nursing homes. A number of factors contribute to the prevalence of incontinence in women:
Hormonal changes and pressure placed on the body from the fetus during pregnancy can lead to stress incontinence, which can lead to small or large bladder leaks when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or laugh. Other physical activity, like exercise, can also lead to bladder leaks.
“I would say virtually all pregnant women experience some type of incontinence,” Anthony Atala, MD, a spokesman for the American Urological Association told Everyday Health.
Risk of incontinence during pregnancy increases when women have a family history of incontinence, gain more than the recommended amount of weight while pregnant, or are older than 35 years old during their pregnancies.
The process of vaginal delivery can damage tissues, nerves, and pelvic floor muscles. While in the process of healing, women may be unable to properly contract the muscles that help them “hold” their urine, leading to involuntary bladder leakage.
Some women may also experience a prolapsed pelvic floor, in which the uterus, small intestine, rectum, and/or bladder can “drop” down into the vagina. Pelvic floor prolapse and incontinence are closely related, and the issue can be treated with both surgical and non-surgical options.
During menopause, women experience decreased estrogen levels. Because estrogen supports the health and strength of tissues in the bladder and urethra, the dip in estrogen production can accelerate the deterioration of these tissues.
If a woman has surgery involving her reproductive situation, such as a hysterectomy, she may experience tissue damage that leads to incontinence as she heals.
Urinary Tract Infection Incontinence
Infections can irritate your bladder and make it difficult to hold your urine, resulted in temporary incontinence. This is easily treatable with antibiotics.
Diagnosing female incontinence
Incontinence is a symptom of an underlying medical condition or issue, the the challenge comes with identifying the origins of the incontinence and what is causing it. A medical professional can examine the pattern and nature of the bladder leakage, along with a detailed medical history, to help pin down the underlying cause.
In some cases, patients will need to undergo a physical exam, palpation of areas surrounding the urinary tract, and reflex testing. A physician may also call for a bladder scan, which is a noninvasive scan of bladder contents, similar to an ultrasound.
How is female incontinence diagnosed?
The challenge is identifying the origins of urinary incontinence. Diagnosis begins with a detailed medical history. The pattern and nature of the leakage will help determine the type of incontinence. A physical examination, including reflex testing and palpation of areas around the urinary tract will offer additional information suggesting the cause of the incontinence.
Bladder scanning in the office setting represents a painless, noninvasive way to visualize the bladder contents. A physician can assess emptying ability with this test, similar to an ultrasound.
The diagnostic process is different for everybody, so patients should work with their medical professional to determine the best course of action.
What to know about treating and managing incontinence in women
1. It’s OK to be discouraged, but don’t give up.
While the process of diagnosing and treating your urinary incontinence might be overwhelming, remember that 80% of incontinence cases can be cured or improved. Even while you are living with daily incontinence, there are incontinence supplies for women that can give you relief from your symptoms.
2. Exercises and therapy can improve your condition
A simple muscle strengthening routine involving kegel exercises can help to strengthen your pelvic floor, reducing or eliminating leakage.
In some cases, electrical stimulation therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS) can target muscles inside the vagina, stimulating muscle contractions and strengthen them.
Talk to your doctor about your options for strengthening the muscles needed to prevent urinary incontinence in women.
3. You may have medical or surgical options
There are certain medications that can help reduce leakage by stabilizing muscle contractions. Some Hormone replacement therapies, typically involving estrogen, can also help restore normal bladder function.
There are also several procedures and medical devices that can stabilize the bladder and urethra.
4. Keep a Diary
Keep a diary or journal of how much you drink, and how often you urinate. You can bring this with you to meetings with your medical professional to help pin down the underlying cause of your urinary incontinence.
5. Eat and Drink Smart
Certain foods and drinks can act as diuretics, making female incontinence worse.
Some foods and drinks can actually make female incontinence worse. Experts say avoiding alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and acidic foods can help with female incontinence.
6. Find the right products for youA whopping 80 percent of people are wearing the wrong incontinence products, resulting in further health complications, daily discomfort, and a worsened quality of life. Make sure you are using the right size and absorbency of incontinence products
, which can help you live an active and normal life while you manage incontinence symptoms. Get started with one of our popular products, Prevail Per-Fit Protective Underwear for Women.