Bladder control problems, urine leaking, is something that happens to women of all ages. The medical terminology is “incontinence”. Although men also leak urine the problem is more common in women. This is because of the changes that occur and the structure and location of the urinary tract in women. Bladder leakage can happen when women exercise, laugh hard, cough or sneeze.
Another term for urine leakage has been an “overactive bladder”. Women who have gone through menopause often report bladder control problems because of the decreased hormonal stimulation which can assist in the muscle control of the pelvic floor. Women who have been pregnant will also report an increased incidence of bladder leakage related to these stretching and added weights they carry during pregnancy.
Often times bladder leakage begins slowly and continues to increase over time. There are two types of incontinence, the most common of which is stress incontinence described above. Although this condition is most common in older women, one third of women can develop the problem before the age of 35.
Another cause of bladder leakage is urge incontinence, when a person has a sudden urge to urinate and may not get to the restroom in time. The good news for individuals who suffer from both types of bladder leakage is that there are treatments and medications to help decrease or eradicate the problem.
It is first important to recognize that bladder leakage is not a normal part of aging and should not be accepted as such. Women who suffer from stress incontinence can practice simple exercises which will strengthen the pelvic floor and the muscles which control the bladder and urethra. Through better muscular control women are often able to stop stress incontinence in its tracks.
Kegel exercises are commonly done in order to improve pelvic floor muscle strength. Kegel exercises can be done anywhere and any place because others will never know they’re being done. This for many women it is easiest to learn these exercises while in the bathroom and urinating. The muscles which are the goal of these exercises are the ones which will stop be urine flow midstream. In other words, while in the bathroom and urinating attempt to stop the stream of urine in the middle.
You may not be able to do this the first time or the second time or even the third time but by attempting it in the bathroom you will learn the muscles which are required to be worked during these exercises. Once you’ve been able to isolate the muscles through work in the bathroom it is time to take the exercises out into the rest of your day. Kegel exercises are done by contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor and holding for a count of 10. At first you may be only able to hold the muscles tight for a count of one or two but it is important to continue to work and strengthen the muscles.
Once you’re able to hold the muscle contracted for a count of 10 do at least two sets of three repetitions during each day. This means holding the muscle tight for a count of 10 and then relaxing for about 30 seconds and doing it again three separate times. Do this once in the morning and once in the evening every day. These exercises can be done while driving the car, cooking in the kitchen or eating dinner. No one knows you’re doing them and once you become accustomed to doing them yourself, it’ll become second nature.
Women who suffer from urge incontinence and are unable to make it to the bathroom on time, now have the benefit of medications which have recently entered the market to treat this issue. Medications such as Detrol, Ditropan, Oxytrol, and Vesicare are available to you help relax the low bladder musculature and allow it to stretch a little further giving women a longer period of time.
For women who have both urge incontinence and stress incontinence other things that can help our to control your fluid consumption. This means you should avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages because they worsen the symptoms of the condition. Constipation can also make bladder problems significantly worse so eating a diet rich in fiber or taking fiber supplements, can help to improve bladder incontinence.
Some women have trouble emptying their bladder completely and are recommended to try double voiding. This means that after finishing urinating you wait a couple of moments and then try again to empty your bladder completely. Some women find it helpful to lean forward slightly which adds added pressure to the bladder to assist in emptying. Your doctor will let you know if this is something that might help your specific condition.
Women who suffer from urge incontinence will also benefit from schedule trips to the bathroom. Instead of waiting until you feel the urge to urinate, attempts to go to the bathroom every two to three hours to empty the bladder and avoid incontinence.
Whether you suffer from urge incontinence, stress incontinence or believe you may, there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about and you should seek the help and treatment of your primary care physician in order to eradicate the problem as quickly as possible.
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I need to Know About Bladder Control for Women
Women’s Health: Urinary Incontinence
UroMedica: Female Incontinence
MayoClinic: Urinary Incontinence