5 Common Causes of Urinary Incontinence
While urinary incontinence is widespread, the exact prevalence is largely unknown, estimated between 12 and 25% of the population, but if you have this bladder challenge, you know firsthand how it impacts your quality of life and confidence at work and play. By learning what causes urinary incontinence, you can begin to develop a plan to overcome it.
These five causes are hard to ignore.
1. Pregnancy and vaginal deliveries
If you experience urinary incontinence for the first time during pregnancy, then you likely have overactive bladder, which is characterized by bladder spasms that can “override” the natural desire of your urethra-surrounding pelvic muscles to prevent urine leakage when you’re not sitting on a toilet. In the case of pregnancy, as your body makes room for baby, you have less room for the bladder, and the stronger uterus wins every time.
You may also have urinary incontinence after pregnancy, particularly with a vaginal delivery. In this case, several things may have occurred:
- The pelvic muscles around the urethra became weakened
- Nerves were damaged during delivery
- The urethra or bladder moved during pregnancy
- Doctors made a cut to the pelvic muscles to more easily allow your baby to pass
As you can see, strengthening the pelvic muscles won’t always fix bladder incontinence because it all depends on what caused that incontinence. Dr. Hall assesses the reason for your incontinence to develop a plan that works for you.
2. Being overweight or obese
According to the U.S. Department of Health, one in three Americans are overweight and 2/3 of overweight people have reached the level of obesity. Researchers have established a strong link between body mass index (BMI) and your chances of suffering from this condition. Older studies have shown that even a moderate change in BMI can double your risk of incontinence.
Those who have been around cigarette smokers can relate to the fact that people who smoke often develop chronic coughs, and with each cough, they put tremendous pressure on the pelvic floor. If that coughing is frequent or recurrent enough, eventually those pelvic muscles give way. On top of that, cigarettes contain many chemicals that irritate the bladder lining. Any inflammation in the bladder increases your risk of leakage.
4. Having a hysterectomy
Urinary incontinence due to hysterectomy is less common than some of the other causes, which may be because by the time you might have a hysterectomy, you’re very likely to have developed urinary incontinence for other reasons. The most common reasons you might develop the condition after a hysterectomy include:
- Overactive bladder, which you’ll recall involves bladder spasms
- Fistula, an unintentional breach between the urethra and the vagina during surgery
- Muscular changes that happened during the surgery
5. Physical activity over the years
This is certainly not license to stop working out, but women who have performed high-intensity workouts for many years may develop urinary incontinence. Researchers are currently exploring three primary theories to explain why this happens in very physically fit people who otherwise tend to have few health challenges.
One theory is that certain activities may thicken the pelvic muscles so that they’re less able to make the subtle movements that allow them to control urine flow. Secondly, they believe that overstretching and strain may cause the incontinence similar to that experienced by the those facing bladder challenges for other causes in this list. Thirdly, some suggest that prolonged endurance activities may increase endurance in other parts of the body at the expense of the pelvic muscles, which grow weaker. Further studies are needed to confirm which one, or more, of these reasons is the true culprit.
How Dr. Rachel E. Hall treats urinary incontinence
Dr. Hall utilizes many nonsurgical treatments to help women experiencing bladder incontinence find relief. These may include pelvic wall exercises, dietary changes, or lifestyle changes in addition to other personalized treatment options.
If you’re living with this condition, contact the office to schedule an appointment.