If you dread laughing, coughing, sneezing or lifting heavy objects because of the dreaded little urine leaks that happen as a result, you may have stress incontinence. More than 1 in 3 women suffer from incontinence, and they are younger than you may think. Contrary to popular belief, urinary incontinence is not just an affliction of the elderly. The changes that women’s bodies go through as a natural part of life can result in stress incontinence.
What is stress incontinence?
Stress incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine when pressure is placed on the bladder from physical activities such as coughing, sneezing or exercising. This happens when the muscles surrounding your bladder weaken. As a result, any activity that exerts force on them causes a small amount of urine to leak from the bladder.
Stress incontinence symptoms
If you leak urine as a result of the following pressure-applying activities, you are likely to have stress incontinence:
- Standing up
- Lifting something heavy
- Having sex
Risk factors of stress incontinence
Experiencing urinary incontinence after childbirth is perfectly normal, and many women go through it. During the nine months of pregnancy, and especially during the birth process itself, your pelvic floor muscles – the system of muscles, nerves and tissues that support your bladder and urethra – are stretched and strained. Births via vaginal delivery are more likely to result in stress incontinence.
Carrying a few extra pounds can put a strain on your bladder and your pelvic floor muscles, which act like a hammock to support your bladder. As a result, these muscles can become stretched and fatigued. This can also lead to stress incontinence.
The hormones in your body can also serve to weaken the pelvic floor muscles. The hormonal changes experienced during menopause can result in new or worsening stress incontinence.
Any illness or condition that results in chronic coughing can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. Smokers in particular are susceptible since smokers’ cough can be persistent and prolonged over many years.
Treatments and remedies for stress incontinence
Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to address stress incontinence. Most of them involve minor tweaks to your daily routine, making them quite doable. Here’s a list of some stress incontinence remedies and treatments:
Stay hydrated on a schedule
Though it may be tempting to drastically limit fluid intake for fear of leaking urine, this is not advised. Don’t limit fluids to the point of dehydration. Instead, drink prescribed amounts throughout the day in order to avoid overstressing your bladder with a large amount of fluid all at once.
Shedding some extra weight can help alleviate the symptoms of stress incontinence by removing one of its root causes – being overweight. Even a daily walk around the neighbourhood to get moving can go a long way in chipping away at the pounds.
Pelvic floor exercises
Stress incontinence is a result of a weakened pelvic floor. But your pelvic floor can be strengthened. Your pelvic floor is a system of muscles, nerves and ligaments that acts like a supportive basket for your bladder, uterus and anus. Kegel exercises involve flexing and releasing the muscles used to hold in urine so they get stronger. Performing kegel exercises three times a day as part of your daily routine will help to alleviate stress incontinence overtime. Here is a sample routine:
- LONG SQUEEZES Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for several seconds and then relax for the same length of time. Start with 5 seconds, and work your way up to 10 seconds as you get practice.
- SHORT SQUEEZES Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for one second, then relax.
Exercises such as squats, bridges and certain yoga poses involve tightening your pelvic floor and will go a long way towards strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.
If you want to find out more, read our complete article on pelvic floor exercises.
Bladder training can both lengthen the amount of time between your toilet trips and increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold, giving you more bladder control. Start by holding your urine for five minutes every time you feel the urge to go. When that starts to feel easy, try holding it for ten minutes, and gradually work your way up, strengthening your bladder muscles over time.
Another way to train your bladder is to make a ‘go schedule’ in which you use the loo on a fixed schedule – say, every hour at first – whether or not you feel the urge to urinate. Once you feel comfortable with your schedule, try increasing the amount of time between each scheduled restroom visit.
Many women turn to period liners or pads because they are familiar and may still be kept around the house. However, bladder leaks are different from periods, and period liners may not be enough. Always Discreet Liners and Pads are made just for bladder leaks – they keep you dry and fresh all day, while staying thin and comfortable, so no one would know. They are also wrapped in feminine wrappers so you can stash them discreetly in your handbag and easily dispose of them.