Let’s be real for a second, urinary leakage is not exactly what we talk about over coffee or during a play date or after our yoga class, even though you probably leaked a bit during that last downward dog. Losing control of your bladder is a sensitive topic and it can be downright embarrassing to talk about. But please find some comfort in knowing that millions, not thousands, but seriously millions of woman experience urinary incontinence (UI) especially after having children and even more so as they get older. So allow me to give you the facts.

What causes UI?

It’s funny you should ask. Do you remember that 9lb baby you gave birth to a couple of years of ago. It’s all his fault. Just kidding. No seriously. It is frequently caused by a weakening of the muscles and nerves used to hold or sometimes even pass urine. UI is twice as common in women as it is in men and it has three main causes: pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. How lovely, right? Other causes of UI that affect both men and women are chronic constipation, certain medicines such as “water pills” and hormone replacement therapies, caffeine and alcohol, urinary and bladder infections, nerve damage and excessive weight.

Are there different types of UI?

Indeed, there are many types of urinary incontinence. Let’s look at the two most common.

  • Stress incontinence refers to those episodes when you leak while coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting or even while having sex. Whoops. Stress IU is usually caused by physical changes that occur again during pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. Never fear ladies, this type is treatable and often curable.
  • Urge incontinence, often referred to as having an “overactive bladder”, usually follows a strong urge to use the restroom. If you frequently “gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now” then you may have urge UI.

So what if I do have UI?

Talk to your health care provider. You may feel ashamed to initiate the conversation but I promise you, you are not alone. They have had this conversation many times before. Do you recall me saying millions of women have this problem. If left untreated, UI can truly be a burden. It will begin to interrupt social gatherings, work and even intimacy.  WomensHealth.gov has compiled a list of questions to ask your doctor:

  • Could what I eat or drink cause bladder problems?
  • Could my medicines (prescription and over-the-counter) cause bladder problems?
  • Could other medical conditions cause loss of bladder control?
  • What are the treatments to regain bladder control? Which one is best for me?
  • What can I do about the odor and rash caused by urine?

It is also recommended that you keep a urine diary. It will allow you to track any patterns in lifestyle that correlate with your UI. Remember to share it with your provider as it will help in determining treatment solutions.

Do I have to take a test? 

Like with any other condition, you practitioner should gather a verbal history and perform a physical exam. She will ask a variety of questions about your symptoms which is why that little urine diary is so beneficial. Also she may do a series of noninvasive tests starting with a urinalysis, bladder stress test and maybe an ultrasound of the bladder, kidneys and urethra. Then she may move on to slightly more invasive tests that involve inserting a tiny camera and/or tube into your bladder.

How is it treated?

There are many treatment options ranging from medicines and maybe surgery to therapy which introduces biofeedback and behavioral treatments. Feel free to discuss these with your provider to find the right solution for you.

Are you experiencing urinary leakage? Don’t suffer in silence. Make today the day to get help.