What Causes Urinary Incontinence in Women and How to Manage It

Urinary incontinence is a common problem in the UK — in fact, it is thought to affect as many as 3 million people, with women at the forefront. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to a toilet in time.

Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence doesn't just affect older people — it affects people of all ages for a variety of reasons, so if urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don't hesitate to see your doctor. 

What is Urinary Incontinence?

If your urinary sphincter is either lost or weakened, this causes you to unintentionally or involuntarily pass urine, which is described as urinary incontinence. There are several different types of urinary incontinence, but the following two can particularly affect women:

Stress Incontinence

If you cough, laugh, lift or sneeze, this can put pressure on your bladder, which causes urine to leak. You may not experience incontinence every time you do one of these things, but any pressure-increasing activity can make you more vulnerable to unintentional urine loss, particularly when your bladder is full.

Urgency Incontinence

If you feel a sudden, intense urge to pass urine without warning, this is due to an overactive bladder. Subsequently, you won’t necessarily leak urine, though the sudden urges can still be incredibly distressing.

You may even have ‘mixed incontinence’ which means you have both stress incontinence and urgency incontinence together.

What Are the Causes of Urinary Incontinence?

Around one in three women over 40 have stress incontinence, which is usually caused by pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, a hysterectomy or increasing age.

Urinary Incontinence During Pregnancy

Having to urinate a lot is especially common during the first trimester and last trimester of pregnancy, so frequent trips to the toilet are a hallmark of being pregnant. As your baby grows, it puts pressure on your bladder, so this is part of the normal physical changes your body goes through.

Urinary Incontinence After Childbirth

After pregnancy, incontinence problems may continue because childbirth weakens the pelvic floor muscles, which can cause an overactive bladder. 
A urology study on incontinence after childbirth found that women who delivered vaginally had a 2-times higher risk of stress intontinence compared to women who had never given birth before. Furthermore, women who delivered by cesarean section had a 1.5-times higher risk, compared to women who had never given birth before.

Urinary Incontinence After Menopause

As you go through menopause, it may become harder to control your bladder because your ovaries have stopped making estrogen. This hormone is essential for women during many stages of your life, including puberty, during your menstrual cycle and during pregnancy. 

Once it’s gone, your body gets to have a break from working so hard, which causes your pelvic floor to weaken and the lining of your urethra (the tube that empties urine from your bladder) begins to thin.

How Can I Manage Urinary Incontinence?

Feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable about urinary incontinence may prevent you from discussing symptoms with your doctor, but left untreated, it can increase the chance of infections or kidney injury. Additionally, once you know the cause, you’ll be in a much better position to discuss treatment options, which can include lifestyle changes, pelvic floor muscle training or possibly even surgery. 

In the meantime, there is absolutely no need to be worried about having an accident or if you’re avoiding going out or joining in with social or physical activities, as there are plenty of helpful incontinence products for women to help keep you dry and comfortable.

Incontinence Products for Women

  • For light bladder weakness, incontinence pads are a great option as they have small leakage barriers at both sides, as well as an absorbent core that absorbs liquid and turns it into a gel. You can even get ladies pouch pants which have an in-sewn internal pouch with waterproof backing.
  • Washable incontinence pants are also an ideal solution as it feels like you're wearing regular underwear, but you’re protected by a built-in pad. There are different designs available, including high brief and lace trim, and you can wash them up to 250+ times.

At Bayliss Mobility, we are proud of our selection of incontinence aids for daily living. Disposable and washa

Sammie KershawEditor