Do you leak a little when you sneeze or cough? Does a good belly laugh bring on a little dribble? If you gave up exercising because you were wetting yourself or if you attempted to carry something heavy and lost control of your bladder, that’s stress incontinence and you are not alone.
Causes of Stress Incontinence
This is the most common form of incontinence in women, brought on by a weakening of the pelvic-floor muscles. Pregnancy, childbirth, weight gain and declining estrogen levels during menopause (even earlier in per menopause), all of which weaken the pelvic-floor muscles and result in more pressure being placed on the bladder and the tube that carries urine out of the bladder, called the urethra.
The weakened pelvic-floor muscles can not hold back the shifting organs when sneezing, coughing, laughing or other strenuous movement takes place, so more pressure is placed on the already stressed bladder and urethra and leakage takes place.
Treatments for Stress Incontinence
Easy at-home treatments usually cure stress incontinence. Start by losing weight. Dropping a few pounds will ease the stress on the pelvic floor. The more weight lost, the more pressure is relieved and stress incontinence may be totally cured via weight loss for some people.
Cut back on caffeinated beverages (which inflates the bladder and put pressure on the urethra), alcohol, artificial sweetener, citrus, and tomato juice. All of these irritate the bladder and make you more prone to a leakage accident.
Daily Kegel exercises will strengthen the pelvic-floor muscles and help eliminate accidents and give you more control over stopping and starting the flow of urine. Kegels are simple to do – contract the same muscles you would contract when trying to hold back urine. Squeeze muscles for 10 seconds, release and repeat 10 times each day. Allow 6-8 weeks to see significant results for preventing stress incontinence.
Surgical Treatment Options
If the at-home treatments still leave you the opposite of high and dry, your doctor can help find a treatment plan that will work for you. A vaginal pessary, which looks somewhat like a rubber contraceptive diaphragm, can be put in place to lift the bladder and keep the urethra closed. Sling surgery is also an option that will put a mesh sling into place to provide internal support and reduce the pressure on the bladder and urethra. Some patients suffering with stress incontinence have found relief with the injections of a gel-like substance that thickens the wall of the urethra, making it stronger and better able to withstand pressure without leaking.