Menopause causes hormone changes, such as the reduction of oestrogen, that affects the abdominal muscles and allows the bladder to shift position slightly, making the pelvic floor muscles less effective.
This can have an affect on your bladder in the following ways:
Your pelvic floor muscles weaken
As with most muscles in your body, your pelvic floor muscles also tend to weaken with age. And because these muscles control your bladder and bowel, you’ll experience the urge to visit the toilet more frequently, while your ability to hold on and get to the loo in time will diminish. Having weak pelvic floor muscles also makes it harder to control gas, and may also precipitate the onset of prolapse.
Your once elastic bladder is no more
As you age, your bladder’s elasticity decreases and has more difficulty in stretching. Then, as your bladder fills, this loss of elasticity tends to irritate the bladder muscle causing it to be overactive. And an overactive bladder means you pass urine more often than normal. Combine this with weaker pelvic floor muscles, and this makes it tough to hold on or to put off going to the toilet.
You may experience vaginal dryness
Because your body produces less of the hormone Oestrogen, the lining of the vagina produces less mucus resulting in vaginal dryness. A similar thing happens in the urethra (your bladder’s outlet tube) and exposes you to a higher-than-normal risk of developing a urinary tract infection. This happens when normal bowel bacteria move into your urethra. Your GP may prescribe Oestrogen cream or an Oestrogen pessary to prevent further urinary infections.
You’ll probably put on a few kilos
You may find yourself gaining weight with the onset of menopause. Any significant weight increase means you run the risk of developing bladder and bowel control problems by placing extra stress and eventually weakening your pelvic floor muscles. This, in turn, leads to stress incontinence, and you may notice leakage when you cough, laugh or sneeze. Try to keep your weight in a manageable range.
Some other health problems
You’ll notice other things starting to play havoc with your health that may cause or worsen incontinence. These include:
- Diabetes — identified as putting women at higher risk of developing incontinence
- Nerve damage (neuropathy) — a common complication of diabetes where nerve damage to the bladder and bowel can lead to a loss of sensation, poor emptying and constipation. The best way to prevent or stop nerve damage is to keep on top your diabetes.
A Hysterectomy can also cause problems
If you’ve had a hysterectomy or prolapse repair, you may find you have problems with controlling your bladder. It’s unclear if the surgery itself may be the culprit. However, pelvic floor exercises before and following surgery will go a long way to helping lessen and possibly eliminate incontinence after a Hysterectomy.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice from a qualified health care professional with any questions regarding your concerns.