There can be a lot of embarrassment associated with urinary stress incontinence, and a lot of women may feel like they can’t talk about it with anybody—even their doctor. However, those women should know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a fact of life that many women will have to deal with throughout their lives, whether it is after pregnancy, the result of aging, or due to any other number of causes. In fact, with this study you can see just how many risk factors there are for UI. Moreover, UI (urinary incontinence) is not something to be ashamed of because it is the particular structure of women’s bodies that causes it to be so prevalent in the female gender. It is also not related to the mode of delivery, i.e., cesarean vs. vaginal delivery. Nuns have the same prevalence of urinary incontinence as mothers.
UI doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t hold it in at all—it simply means that there may be times or situations where women experience a little leakage, or there may be times when they are unable to “hold it” completely until they reach a restroom. Women may experience UI when they laugh or sneeze, or they might simply find the need to wear a panty liner throughout the day. It is a myth that there is nothing that can be done for UI.
The first and most important step in dealing with this issue is to speak with your doctor and specifically a urogynecologist. This is absolutely necessary, as there may be medical causes for sudden UI. If there are no medical causes, there might be other causes for UI, such as smoking. If the cause is something like obesity, simply losing some excess weight can help. Your doctor can also recommend exercises that can help strengthen the pelvic wall and reduce UI. In extreme cases, your doctor may even recommend surgery to treat urinary incontinence. However, nothing can be done if patients are unwilling to speak to their doctor about the problem. Communication is always the first step in treating any issue.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.