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Female Urinary Incontinence: It's More Common Than You Think

Apr 06, 2023
Female Urinary Incontinence: It's More Common Than You Think
It’s not easy to talk about urinary leaks, but female urinary incontinence is more common than you might think. Plus, talking to your provider about your symptoms is the first step in finding relief. Read on to learn more.

Whether a sneeze caught you off-guard or you just didn’t make it to the restroom in time, urinary leaks are frustrating and embarrassing. Female urinary incontinence is more common than you might think, and millions of women struggle with these symptoms.

Fortunately, our board-certified urologists at Bellingham Urology Group are experts when it comes to diagnosing and treating urinary incontinence in our Bellingham and Mount Vernon, Washington, locations. Don’t let urinary incontinence keep you from the activities you love. 

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the factors behind this common condition and what we can do to help.

How common is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence affects twice as many women as men. About 53% of women over the age of 20 experience incontinence, according to a 12-year-long study.

Types of urinary incontinence

There are many different types of incontinence, and they’re all relatively common. According to research published in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery in 202237.5% of women with incontinence had stress urinary incontinence, 22.0% had urgency urinary incontinence, and 31.3% had mixed symptoms. The remaining 9.2% also had incontinence but didn’t report which type. 

Stress incontinence

The most common type of incontinence, stress incontinence causes leaks when there’s an increase in pressure on your pelvic floor. Because coughing, sneezing, and jumping put pressure on your pelvic floor, these activities trigger leaks. 

Urgency incontinence

Also known as overactive bladder, urgency incontinence happens when you have a sudden need to use the restroom, contributing to leaks that happen before you can reach the toilet.

Mixed incontinence

In some cases, women experience both types of incontinence. You may have mixed incontinence if you have leaks when laughing, coughing, or exercising 一 and when the urge strikes suddenly outside of those activities. 

What are the risk factors and causes of female urinary incontinence?

The statistics confirm that urinary incontinence is common, but why? Having a vaginal birth is one of the biggest risk factors for female urinary incontinence. Considering that there are almost 2.5 million vaginal births each year, this connection isn’t too surprising. However, vaginal birth isn’t the only risk factor for incontinence.

Physiological changes during menopause (such as vaginal atrophy) can also contribute to urinary incontinence. If your pelvic floor muscles weaken, it can affect your bladder and the muscles that support your bladder. This also explains why the numbers of incontinence in women skyrocket after menopause. A whopping 75% of women over the age of 65 report urine leaks.

The following items can irritate your bladder and exacerbate overactive bladders: 

  • Caffeine, including coffee and tea
  • Carbonated drinks, including sodas and bubbly water
  • Alcohol
  • Tomatoes and citrus fruits
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate

Constipation and urinary tract infections are two underlying conditions that can contribute to temporary instances of incontinence, and unfortunately, both of these affect more women than men.

Treating urinary incontinence

Just because female urinary incontinence is common, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck dealing with leak after leak. As experienced urologists, we know that the right treatment starts with the right diagnosis. Depending on which type of urinary incontinence you have, we may recommend any of the following: 

  • Lifestyle modifications, just scheduling bathroom breaks right before a workout or choosing a non-jumping HIIT workout instead of one with lots of jumping 
  • Behavioral training to help retrain your bladder muscles
  • Pelvic floor therapy
  • Injections, including collagen and Botox®
  • Surgery, including Interstim electrode placement

Ready to explore your options? Call or message the location closest to you 一 Bellingham or Mount Vernon, Washington 一 and request your appointment today.