After having a baby, if your bladder isn’t what it used to be, you’re not alone. The pelvic floor muscles that help hold urine in the bladder can weaken after pregnancy and childbirth. As many as 30 to 40 percent of middle-aged U.S. women have urinary incontinence or problems with leaking urine. The numbers may be even higher, since many women don’t talk to their doctor about their problem.
In addition, 40 percent of women in the U.S. live with overactive bladder symptoms, which are most often characterized by a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate and may also include incontinence issues.
“Many women just live with these conditions and don’t realize there are urology providers and non-surgical treatment options available,” says Haley Summerhays, a nurse practitioner who specializes in urology at Intermountain Southridge Clinic in Riverton, UT. “Some women suffer from stress incontinence and others suffer from overactive bladder and some women have a combination of symptoms.”
Is it stress incontinence or urge incontinence?
Stress urinary incontinence is when the bladder leaks during activities that overextend weakened pelvic floor muscles. It can occur when you sneeze, cough, jump, run, walk, lift, or bend and result in a few drops of urine to a tablespoon or more. It can be mild, moderate or severe.
Urge urinary incontinence is when you have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. It may involve the need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition such as infection or by a more severe condition such as a neurologic disorder or diabetes.
What is overactive bladder?
You’ve seen the commercials for overactive bladder medication, but how do you know if you might have it? Overactive bladder isn’t a disease, but a group of urinary symptoms that may include:
- Sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate
- Incontinence: leaking urine or inability to control urine flow
- Having to go to the bathroom many times during the day and night
Risk factors for overactive bladder and stress incontinence in women:
- Weight gain
- Chronic constipation
What treatments are available for overactive bladder?
Pelvic floor muscle training combined with bladder training effectively resolve urinary incontinence for most women, according to medical studies.
Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Basically, they involve contracting and releasing the pelvic floor muscles repeatedly. Your doctor can explain how to do them correctly. Kegels and therapy are most effective when started early. Physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor disorders can evaluate your condition and develop an individual treatment plan.
In-office urological procedures and surgical options are available. See a urology provider to find out what type of treatment will help improve your specific symptoms.