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If you always feel like you have to go to the bathroom, or if you can’t always hold it in before you get to a bathroom, you’re not alone: Urinary incontinence (UI) is a common medical problem that affects millions of women. UI doesn’t have to be a source of embarrassment, because it isn’t something that you have to live with.
Urinary incontinence (UI), also known as urinary leakage or loss of bladder control, usually involves the involuntary leaking of urine, either in the form of a few drops or something more severe. UI may include:
Compared to men, women are twice as likely to have UI, largely because of the stresses and changes brought on by pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Pregnancy puts increased pressure on pelvic floor muscles that can weaken them, while vaginal childbirth can exacerbate pelvic floor weakness and damage the nerves that control bladder function. These effects usually heal within a few months of childbirth, but they sometimes persist, particularly for women who have had multiple pregnancies.
Lower estrogen levels brought on by menopause can also contribute to UI by weakening urethral tissues.
Although there are several forms of UI, the most common types are:
UI can often be successfully treated without having to resort to surgery, which is why your doctor at Women’s care may start by recommending specific lifestyle changes, bladder training, physical therapy, or bladder support devices.
For example, your diet may exacerbate your UI problem — eating high-sodium foods can cause you to urinate more frequently. Certain prescription medications also can contribute to UI. Losing weight can help take pressure off your bladder, and performing Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles for better bladder control. You may also regain control by retraining your bladder, a process that involves going to the bathroom at set times, even when you don’t feel the urge to go.
If these methods don’t work, you may find success with bladder control medication, nerve stimulation therapy, or surgery.