Women of a certain age will tell you that incontinence is inevitable. They’ll assure you that you’ll become accustomed to finding the restroom in a store or restaurant the minute you enter. It’s like this shared secret of menopause that you become an expert in bathroom locations all across town. Urinary incontinence is not an inevitable result of aging, but it is a particularly common women’s health issue.
0Over 25 million adult Americans experience temporary or chronic urinary incontinence.
Many women over 50 experience incontinence from time to time. It’s the involuntary loss of urine and is most common in women who have given birth. Coughing, sneezing, or just waiting too long to rush to the bathroom can cause a few drops to leak.
While the causes of urinary incontinence are based on many factors, women are twice as likely as men to experience it. A healthy man’s urinary system will stay relatively the same throughout his life while a woman’s is built to be more flexible. It’s this flexibility that enables women to bear children but also leaves the urinary system more susceptible to weakening – even in women who never become pregnant.
Just because it’s common doesn’t mean that you have to live with it for the next 40 years. Talk to your doctor about the side effects of your medication that may be aggravating your condition, and make some lifestyle changes. If changes aren’t effective enough, there are discreet ways to stay dry and comfortable.
Menopause isn’t the only cause
When your body ceases making estrogen, your urethra begins to thin, and your pelvic floor weakens. But the loss of muscle tone isn’t just from hormones; you also naturally lose muscle tone due to age. Women are most likely to develop urinary incontinence during pregnancy and after childbirth, or after the hormonal changes of menopause.
Stress incontinence can occur when you sneeze, cough, or laugh because the muscle contractions put too much pressure on your bladder. Walking, running, and exercising can also cause light leakage.
Overly active or irritated bladder muscles can cause urge incontinence. Light leakage occurs with the frequent and sudden urge to urinate. Some medicines can keep your bladder from emptying or trigger an urge to relieve your bladder. Health conditions like diabetes can cause nerve damage, which can cause bladder problems.
Exercise can limit incontinence
You can strengthen the muscles around your urethra that control urine flow with Kegel exercises. Several times each day, contract the muscles you normally use to stop the flow of urine. Research shows these exercises are effective at limiting or eliminating light leakage.
Perform Kegel exercises three times each day and continue for the rest of your life for the best results. It will take 4-8 weeks before you’ll notice a slow in leakage.
Physical therapy can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to better support your bladder and other pelvic organs.
Other ways to manage
Urinary incontinence doesn’t have to make you avoid going out. Schedule restroom visits every two hours so that you don’t get caught with a full bladder unexpectedly. Visit the restroom before you leave home or work. Diet modifications such as eliminating bladder irritants, such as caffeine, alcohol and citrus fruits can also assist in managing bladder issue.
If you occasionally experience leakage, there are absorbent pads you can wear. Consider underwear that absorbs as much as six teaspoons of liquid, or a tampon-like device which puts pressure on your urethra to prevent embarrassing leaks.
It’s a well-known secret
Incidences of urinary incontinence affect women all over the world. Causes include hormonal changes, childbirth, or the loss of muscle tone as you age. Prepare yourself with products, exercises, and planning so that you can continue to enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle without worrying about urine leakage.
If urinary incontinence is affecting your life, let your doctor know. There might be medication changes or other lifestyle changes they can recommend to minimize the symptoms.