Whether it’s a ‘small tinkle’ with a sneeze or a ‘potty dance’ while headed toward the bathroom, the uncontrolled leakage of urine is called urinary incontinence. This condition can be a real bother for many ladies.
Do you skip gym class for fear of leaking urine? Are your daily trips planned around restroom breaks? Have you ever heard yourself say, “Stop, don’t make me laugh!”? When the bladder is functioning normally, you should be able to delay a bathroom break until a socially acceptable time and not worry about leaking during activity.
You do not need to have pelvic organ prolapse (or a collapsed bladder) for urine to leak. You may look and feel the same, however, the dampness signals a problem. Sometimes this condition can be temporary, such as with a urinary tract infection or during pregnancy. If so, urinary incontinence will quickly resolve after the temporary condition has passed. At other times, leakage may start slowly and worsen over time. Many women wear panty-liners or change their underwear frequently because of urinary incontinence, a condition that according to the National Association for Continence affects close to 18 million women.
Urinary incontinence may be common but it’s not normal and, thankfully, there is often a cure. Here are some things you can do to help:
- Do Kegel exercises. These exercises help muscle strength and endurance training for the pelvic floor.
- Try core muscle strengthening exercises, like Pilates and yoga. The core muscle and pelvic floor muscles work closely together. Getting one region stronger can help the other.
- Wear a tampon during exercise, or a pessary vaginal insert made to help with stress leakage.
- Achieve normal body weight through nutrition or lower impact exercise.
- Consider a surgical procedure to support the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the body).
There are other cases when medical conditions or prior surgeries are causing the leakage. Even issues that limit the speed and ease of walking can contribute to leakage. Urinary incontinence and constant dampness can cause skin irritation in the regions of dampness.
I have seen firsthand how urinary incontinence can affect day to day activities, plans for the future and even self-esteem. If this problem continues, talk to your healthcare team. Details about treatment can be discussed with your provider or a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Leakage can control your life. Even though you can live with these problems, ask yourself, ‘Why should I?’ Would you give your daughter or girlfriend the same advice? Let’s do better for ourselves. For more information on urinary incontinence, visit www.askAAMC.org/pelvichealth.