Light bladder weakness affects one in four women in the US. Though female bladder weakness is common, it is not an inevitable part of aging. Your bladder health changes throughout your life, but you are not necessarily doomed to leak with every laugh, cough or exertion. Here is information on the changes you can expect.
Your body is ever-changing
Your body invariably changes every decade but it is particularly affected with every pregnancy and delivery as well as in response to the dramatic hormonal fluctuations due to your periods, pregnancies and menopause. These phases of life, though normal, strongly impact the health of your bladder. And though less common in the younger population, light bladder weakness can affect people of all ages.
Usually by the age of three, children can control their bladder. However, sometimes physiological (urinary tract infections (UTI)) or psychological (trauma that results in bedwetting or uncontrollable voiding at other times of the day) factors can manifest into bladder control issues that require a visit (or more) to the doctor. There are a number of more serious conditions that should be ruled out. If your child is experiencing bladder control problems, take him or her to see a pediatrician.
Adolescents and young adults
Light bladder weakness is more common in females than in males, even in the teenage years. Girls between 11 and 17 years old can experience overactive bladder or light bladder weakness, which may be a result of the transition into adult urinary control or due to UTI, weight, or a more serious medical condition. A medical professional can assess the cause of leakage as well as suggest treatments appropriate for the cause.
Many women first experience light bladder weakness when they become pregnant. In fact, more than 50 percent of first-time moms-to-be and at least 85 percent of second-timers develop bladder weakness. Bladder control issues are common, particularly in the third trimester, when the growing uterus puts increasing pressure on the bladder.
The high levels of progesterone during pregnancy also contribute to light bladder weakness because progesterone promotes muscle relaxation (which includes the muscles that help you "hold" your urine). Light bladder weakness usually goes away soon after delivery, but some women have on-going problems. If you are still leaking weeks after your delivery, talk to your doctor about lifestyle modifications (which could be as simple as kegels) and treatments that can minimize and even eliminate bladder weakness.
The cessation of "that time of month" can be a blessing for some women. For others, however, menopause results in light bladder weakness. It is believed that the drop in estrogen, which keeps the bladder and urethra linings healthy, can decrease bladder control. This doesn't mean that you have to live with bladder weakness; it just means you need to consult your doctor about treatments and other ways to improve your bladder control. Keep in mind, however, no studies have shown that taking estrogen after menopause improves light bladder weakness. Also, talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking - for some medications, bladder weakness is a common side-effect.
Light bladder weakness can be brought on by a variety of factors, regardless of age. Urinary leaks are not considered a disease (but they can be a symptom of an underlying medical cause), and are often the result of UTI or bladder infections, constipation, medications, child birth, pelvic or back surgeries, or injury from accidents. Lifestyle factors such as being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol can also contribute to bladder problems. Treatments for bladder weakness, which are individualized according to age and condition, include behavioral therapy, medications, surgery and lifestyle changes.
Regardless of your age, it is not something to simply accept and live with. Talk to your doctor today and start taking care of your bladder health.
For more information on bladder control, read What affects bladder health?
and Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Bladder