Stress incontinence causes your urine to leak whenever pressure is applied on your pelvic floor, especially when your bladder is full. This usually happens during certain physical activity or sudden movements.
Stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence that women, especially those who have given birth in the past, experience and suffer from. It can be embarrassing and affect one’s life so much that it can cause social isolation.
What is Stress Incontinence?
Stress incontinence or SI is the inability to hold your urine or to resist the urge to urinate. It can be considered as a serious condition when “stress” (about too much physical pressure) on the bladder or abdomen causes involuntary urinary leakage.
Women are more likely to suffer from this condition.
Symptoms of Stress Incontinence
With SI, the main symptom is when you suffer from or become more vulnerable to accidentally leak urine whenever you:
● Stand up
● Lift something heavy
● Engage in sexual intercourse
This leakage can range from a few drops, a squirt to a full-on stream of urine depending on the severity of your SI or the amount of pressure exerted on the bladder.
To help you understand more about this condition, here is an overview of the anatomy of your bladder.
The bladder is supported by different muscle groups including:
● The sphincter around the urethra,
● The bladder wall’s detrusor muscle,
● The pelvic floor muscles that support both the urethra and the bladder
Stress incontinence is the result of the weakening of the sphincter and the pelvic muscles. When this happens, you won’t be able to contract the muscles and thus cannot hold your urine.
When the pelvic muscles weaken, the bladder may also drop to a position where it prevents the complete closure of the urethra.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) identifies women to be twice as prone to suffer from stress incontinence than men. The causes and contributing factors include:
● Pregnancy and childbirth (especially multiple vaginal births) during which the pelvic muscles and sphincter stretch out and become weak
● Estrogen drop during menstruation and menopause
● Hormonal deficiencies
● Pelvic surgery
● Surgical removal of the prostate gland in men
● Older age
● Respiratory diseases and other conditions that lead to chronic sneezing and coughing
● Obesity or being overweight
● Disorders of the bladder and urethra
● Doing high impact activities in the long-term
● Caffeine and alcohol intake
Stress incontinence may also lead to several complications that include:
● Distress and embarrassment. The daily burden of stress incontinence may affect your work, studies, relationships, social activities, and sex life.
● Mixed urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence is often accompanied by urge incontinence. This is due to the involuntary bladder muscle contraction, also known as overactive bladder.
● Skin irritation and rashes. When your skin constantly comes in contact with urine, it can break down and become sore or irritated. This is usually the case in severe incontinence. Therefore, precautions like incontinence pads and moisture barriers are recommended.
Treatments for Stress Incontinence
Self-help and other methods can be applied or done to treat stress incontinence. These include:
● Kegel Exercises
● Weight loss
● Timed voiding or monitoring of your leakage patterns
● Bladder training
● Injection of bulking agents
● Surgery to add support to the pelvic organs such as artificial sphincters or slings
Stress incontinence is a common yet less talked about condition. However, embarrassment should not hold you back from asking for help and a chance to lead a normal life again.
Many effective treatment methods are available today, and all you need to do is consult your doctor to find the best one for you.