- Bladder Problems
- Female Incontinence
The expression “I laughed so hard I wet myself” is based on a universal truth familiar to millions of women of all ages.
But female incontinence – the involuntary leaking of urine – is no laughing matter if it’s interfering with your work, love life, sports or social activities and self esteem.
Female incontinence is no laughing matter
Even a mild case of female incontinence can be embarrassing or just downright frustrating, while severe female incontinence can lead to anxiety, depression and reduced enjoyment of life.
If you have a problem with your bladder, then there are things you should know about dealing with the problem.
You don’t have to put up with female incontinence
Female incontinence is not the price you pay for being a woman. Nor is it a normal part of aging. You certainly don’t have to put up with it, whether you’re a woman of 18 or 80.
There are great options for management and treatment of female incontinence. The first and most important is pelvic floor muscle exercising, combined with the use of discreet Poise Products. Poise products are near invisible and super absorbent to allow you to get out and about without worrying about potential odour or leakage.
If regular pelvic floor exercises on their own aren’t enough to restore bladder control, have a chat to your doctor or local continence advisor about the very effective treatment strategies available to you. You may be very surprised by the options within easy reach. And the faster you get onto it, the sooner you’ll feel better. What’s more, if your female incontinence is still quite mild, it’s easier to stop it in its tracks now rather than later when the condition has worsened. Like many conditions, early intervention is the key to a quick return to normal and will help you avoid having a prolapse.
You’re far from alone in suffering from female incontinenceIf you haven’t dared discuss the subject with friends, you might think it’s just you that’s got a problem. But chances are many of your friends and female relatives are in the same boat. But like you, they’re too embarrassed to bring up the subject.
- Research reveals that one in four women over 18 experience episodes of leaking urine involuntarily
- One in eight 18 – 23 year-olds experience urine leaks
- Between one third and a half of pregnant women experience female incontinence due to the pressure of the growing baby on the bladder
- An American study found that incontinence problems are experienced by over 18% of women who’ve had one child, nearly 25% of women who have had two children, and 32% of women who’ve had three or more
- Around 40% of menopausal women have female continence
- Around a third of women over 60 years old are incontinent
In short, female incontinence is widespread and affects women of all ages, including young adults and sometimes even children.
How serious can female incontinence be?
For many women, female incontinence means losing just a few drops of urine when they laugh, sneeze, cough, jog, make love, or even hear running water when washing the dishes or walking past a fountain.
Some women learn to quickly bring mild incontinence under control by sitting down or crossing the legs tightly. While for others, female incontinence may be a sudden urge to go to the toilet, followed by an unstoppable and embarrassing flood of urine. And this can sometimes occur at the worst possible time.
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that female incontinence may cause huge emotional distress for those who suffer from this condition. It can be so bad that it stops a woman from being physically and socially active, pursuing career opportunities or enjoying a sexual relationship. And there have even been cases where women have felt unable to leave the safety of home because they’re so afraid of an embarrassing accident at a party or outing in a public place.
Why are women more prone to incontinence?
Female incontinence has much to do with the design of a woman’s body. Pregnancy and childbirth tend to strain the muscles that control the bladder, while the structure of the female urinary tract is not as good as the male urinary tract at controlling urine flow. Also, during menopause, decreasing levels of oestrogen may affect bladder control.
Female urination is a complex process. Muscles in the bladder wall contract, forcing urine out of the bladder. At the same time, the sphincter muscles surrounding the urethra that normally prevent urine flow relax, allowing the urine to flow out. Any additional pressure, or even the slightest change in the position of internal organs, can interfere with this function, and perhaps even cause bladder pain.
Why female incontinence occursFemale incontinence occurs when the muscles and nerves meant to control the release of urine malfunction or are damaged by:
- Falling oestrogen levels during menopause
- Nerve or brain damage
- Birth defects
- Chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis
The three main types of female incontinence
As mentioned earlier, some women experience female incontinence as light leaking, while for others it’s a sudden overwhelming urge to urinate, followed by a flood.
The first type of female incontinence is called stress incontinence, not because it’s caused by a stressful event such as losing your child in the park or running late for a job interview, but physical stress or pressure on your internal organs such as coughing, sneezing or laughing when your bladder is full, thus causing light bladder leakage. Usually there is no accompanying urge to go to the bathroom.
Urge incontinence is the second type and this is characterised by the inability to hold on for more than a few minutes once you have a sudden overwhelming need to urinate. This type of incontinence is also known as having an overactive bladder. Many women suffer from a combination of both urge and stress incontinence.
The third type is overflow incontinence. With this type, there is no urge to urinate and your bladder will leak without warning. It’s rarely diagnosed in women.
Who’s likely to suffer female incontinence?
Having children can lead to female incontinence, so mothers are more susceptible to the condition than women who’ve not given birth. This is because the pelvic floor that supports the bladder is vulnerable to wear and tear during pregnancy and vaginal delivery of a baby. And the more deliveries a woman has, the greater the risk of female incontinence.
When women hit menopause, oestrogen levels drop, the cells lining the inside of the bladder and urethra become thin and less elastic and the blood flow to the urethra decreases. The spongy tissue surrounding the urethra collapses, causing it to open slightly and become more likely to leak urine. The bladder lining is also more likely to be affected by irritants like caffeine, citrus fruits, spicy food and alcohol.
If that’s not enough, the nerves that govern the bladder need oestrogen to function properly and as the hormone decreases, the nerves may become more sensitive. This can cause bladder spasms or a sudden and intense urge to go to the toilet.
Getting older also plays a big role in female incontinence. It’s estimated that up to 35% of women over 60 are incontinent, with women twice as likely as men to experience the condition. This is because as we age, the pelvic floor holding up the bladder loses its strength through lack of exercise and the low amounts of oestrogen – the hormone that helps keep tissue strong and elastic.
Sadly, female incontinence has a serious impact on the mobility and health – both mental and physical – of older Australian women. Higher rates of depression are found in women suffering female incontinence. And more than 50% of nursing home admissions are related to incontinence.
Interestingly, children also suffer incontinence, with it being twice as common in girls as it is in boys. Five percent of 10 –year-olds and 1 percent of 18-year-olds suffer episodes of incontinence. In most cases, kids ‘grow out of it’ when their bladders reach adult size or they learn better control.
Erin is a mother to three kids, who shares her story with us about experiencing incontinence at a young age. Eleven years later, Erin has discovered female incontinence is normal and uses Poise liners everyday to manage it.