Urinary incontinence is quite common in women. Although it can occur at any age, it is most likely to develop during the menopause years because of the hormonal changes that occur at that time. By the age of 65, more than 40% of women have urinary incontinence.
Does that mean you’re destined to have trouble holding in your urine, getting to the bathroom on time, or making it through the night without multiple trips to the bathroom?
No. While it’s true that many health events in a woman’s life — including pregnancy, childbirth, pelvic surgeries, and menopause — do raise your likelihood of developing incontinence, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it.
In fact, there are some important steps you can take to help prevent incontinence.
At Virtuosa GYN in San Antonio, Texas, Susan Crockett, MD, and her team of care providers understand how burdensome urinary incontinence can be. With that in mind, we would like to share some of the steps you can take to help prevent it.
Carrying extra weight can increase your risk of developing incontinence. Here’s why: Excess fat puts pressure on your bladder and makes it less capable of holding in urine effectively. Extra weight also strains the muscles in the pelvic area that play a role in healthy bladder function.
If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight could prevent or postpone incontinence, especially a type known as stress incontinence. If you have stress incontinence, you may release urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or put other pressure on your bladder.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and hormonal changes can weaken the muscles in your pelvis that help support your pelvic organs. Weak pelvic floor muscles may contribute to the development of incontinence, particularly stress incontinence.
You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises. To learn how to do Kegels, read these instructions from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Or ask us for tips on doing Kegels in a way that will best help you.
Smoking is harmful to your body in countless ways, including increasing your risk of incontinence.
Not only might it affect your bladder health, but smoking can cause coughing, which puts pressure on your bladder that can cause you to release urine when you don’t intend to. Over time, all that coughing can contribute to incontinence.
If you need help to quit smoking, ask for a referral to a smoking cessation program. And check out Smokefree.gov, which provides tips, tools, and resources for smokers who want to quit.
No matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked, you can start to improve your health immediately by quitting smoking.
If you develop incontinence despite your best efforts, don’t despair. Dr. Crockett and our care providers specialize in treating all types of incontinence.
Treatment options include:
When conservative methods don’t relieve your symptoms, Dr. Crockett may recommend surgery.
To schedule an appointment for evaluation of incontinence or any other women’s health issue, contact us today at our San Antonio, Texas, office.