No one likes to talk about it, but many women deal with light bladder leakage. And for those who do, don’t just treat your symptoms — taking the time to understand common causes of bladder leakage can help you find the best long-term solution.
Below are some of the most frequently cited reasons women deal with light incontinence.
Stress incontinence vs. urge incontinence
Different women experience incontinence for different reasons. Stress incontinence is light bladder leakage that occurs in response to stress placed on the body. For instance, coughing, sneezing, laughing and exercising are all common causes of stress incontinence. While these are physical stressors, psychological stress can also play a role. So, whether you’re working in a stressful job or dealing with a high-stress home situation, you may find that the urge to urinate becomes more frequent.
Urge incontinence, on the other hand, occurs when you have a sudden need to urinate because your bladder contracts or spasms at unexpected times. Some urge incontinence can be related to certain events — for instance, if you hear the sound of rushing water, you may suddenly feel the urge to urinate. Other causes of urge incontinence are less predictable and, in most cases, no specific cause can be found.
Common causes of stress incontinence
Stress incontinence can occur for a number of reasons. Below, we’ve listed a few of the top contributing factors and how to address them.
- Coughing or sneezing: If you have a chronic cough, make sure you see a doctor to have it treated. If your cough is caused by your smoking habit, it may be time to kick the butt for good. Smokers are much more likely to deal with light bladder leakage than non-smokers.
- Exercising: If you find yourself leaking urine while walking, jogging or jumping, try putting yourself on a urination schedule before and during your gym session. Hit the bathroom just before you hit the treadmill, then take bathroom breaks according to a set schedule while you workout.
- Weight gain and/or pregnancy: When you put on a significant amount of weight, you risk weakening the muscles of your pelvic floor, which likely will lead to leakage. If you’ve gained weight due to lifestyle reasons, make sure you start eating healthy and exercising regularly to reclaim your svelte figure. If you’ve gained weight due to pregnancy, remember to keep your weight gain within a healthy range and don’t forget to practice your Kegels! They’ll help keep your pelvic floor muscles strong.
Common causes of urge incontinence
In most cases, the cause of urge incontinence can’t be found, but certain lifestyle factors can play a part. For instance, certain dietary habits can cause bladder irritation that leads to spasms. For example, some people may experience bladder spasms after intaking caffeine, while other people may experience bladder irritation after eating spicy foods, citrus or artificial sweeteners.
Don’t underestimate the power of fluid intake. It’s not just those who drink too much that experience potential leakage — those who drink too little could experience incontinence as well. To prevent your bladder from becoming over- or under-taxed, drink fluids steadily throughout the day, aiming to consume roughly eight, 8-ounce glasses of water.
Dips in estrogen during perimenopause and menopause can also affect bladder leakage. Perform Kegels regularly and discuss other treatment options with your doctor.
A version of this article was originally published in March 2012.