What is incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is a very common condition which affects up to 1 in 3 women who have had a baby. While some women only have a mild case which causes them to leak a little when they laugh or sneeze, some women find that incontinence disrupts their day-to-day life, and may even avoid leaving home for fear of an ‘accident’.
What causes Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence happens when the bladder and pelvic floor muscles weaken, Your risk of incontinence can be increased by:
Long labour/big baby – pregnancy and birth stress the pelvic floor muscles on their own, but labouring more than 12 hours or giving birth to a baby over 8 ½ pounds can increase your chances of developing incontinence
Family history – if your mother, grandmother, aunt, or sister has suffered from incontinence, you may have a higher chance of also developing it.
Age – the pelvic muscles naturally weaken with age, which can lead to incontinence.
Pelvic organ prolapse – organs in your lower abdomen and pelvis can shift and place pressure on your bladder, making it feel more full.
How do you know if you have urinary incontinence?
The biggest sign of urinary incontinence is leakage, especially when exercising, sneezing, or laughing. Other signs can include feeling ‘suddenly full’, or that you need to race to the toilet to make it on time (or may not make it at all).
It’s important to remember that these symptoms aren’t an issue of ‘holding it too long’ – they can happen at any time of the day, whether you need to go or not.
How is it treated?
The type of treatment recommended will depend on your age, medical history, and the type of incontinence you have. Your doctor may recommend:
- Lifestyle modification – weight loss, quitting smoking, or dietary changes may be recommended to help minimise your symptoms
- Exercises - your doctor may recommend an exercise program to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles or train your bladder.
- Surgery – Your doctor may perform a mid-urethral sling surgery. This is a short, 30-minute procedure which involves putting a flexible tube around the midsection of your urethra to support the muscles surrounding it.