Stress incontinence – an overview

Stress incontinence - an overview

Are you afraid of leaking urine at the most inopportune moments? Have you been experiencing this leakage ever after your child was born? Do you avoid meeting your friends afraid to leak every time you laugh? If any of these situations resemble your state, you might be experiencing stress urinary incontinence.

Many people face this condition but rarely open up about it owing to the fear of being ridiculed. If you have never heard about this condition from your friends or family, do not be afraid. It is quite a common and curable condition. And we have prepared this article to help you know more about stress incontinence. Please keep reading!

What is stress incontinence?

Stress incontinence is the condition where a person leaks some amounts of urine every time they sneeze, cough, laugh, or perform any such activity that puts pressure on their bladder. Although it is faced by people irrespective of genders, stress incontinence is more commonly seen in women. Also, women who have given birth are more prone to develop stress incontinence.

In severe cases, this leakage is also seen when a woman walks or stands up from a sitting position. Women suffering from this condition often withdraw from their normal social life and are unable to live an active life because of this.

What are the causes?

The incontinence is the result of any pressure or stress experienced by the abdomen or pelvic region. The pelvic floor muscles surround the urethra and hold organs in the pelvic region in place. When these muscles are not strong enough and unable to close at will, this gives rise to leakage. The most common causes for this condition include (and are not limited to):

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes
  • Heavy weightlifting
  • Injury to pelvic floor muscles

However, please note that not all women who face these causes have to experience stress incontinence. Women who have not experienced childbirth can also fall prey to this condition without the required pelvic floor muscle strength.

How can we treat it?Stress incontinence treatment

Various treatment options are available to cure stress incontinence. However, the best remedy to this condition is to maintain a strong pelvic floor. Let’s discuss each treatment option in detail.

Exercise

When it comes to eradicating stress incontinence right from its roots, exercise is the best treatment option available. Only exercise can help you strengthen your pelvic musculature. The most preferred pelvic floor muscle exercise that you will likely be suggested by your doctor or physiotherapist is the Kegel’s exercise. It involves contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles as many times a day as suggested by your healthcare provider.

The repeated contractions and relaxations can strengthen the muscles over time. This exercise is mostly also a part of the pregnancy-safe exercises that you undergo at your gym or physiotherapy centre. Ask your doctor and they can guide you better about how to perform it.

Healthy lifestyle

Our bodies do get affected by the lifestyle habits we adopt. Not getting enough rest or overworking yourself can lead to weak immunity and weaker muscles. Maintaining a healthy routine and eating the foods that promote muscle health is mandatory to treat stress incontinence. Also, avoiding lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco can affect your muscles adversely. Try not to indulge in these habits and avoid them as much as you can.

Compression garments

These garments help provide strategic support around your lower back, abdomen, and pelvic floor regions using anatomically designed support panels. They back your pelvic muscles when they are weak to hold the internal organs in place. They are made of breathable material which also allows better movement as compared to pregnancy girdles.

Maternity compression garments are also known as pregnancy leggings/shorts. They can be worn while you are pregnant and also when recovering postpartum. Ask your healthcare provider to guide you about selecting the best size and brand of compression garments for you.

Surgery

A pelvic floor muscle surgery is often the last option that doctors employ to treat stress incontinence. It is only performed when the patient is unable to exercise voluntarily or has other health conditions that restrict their movement such as multiple sclerosis. Elders who cannot support themselves are generally advised to opt for surgery.

However, surgical treatment is not the final solution. If the person tends to suffer from chronic constipation or does any activities that increase the risk of damaging pelvic floor muscles, the surgery can prove futile. The person can be back to where they started and hence it is advisable to look after your pelvic musculature even after the surgery.

Things to keep in mind

The above-mentioned treatment options can help you overcome incontinence. But even after it is cured, keeping certain things in mind can always help you prevent its occurrence in future.

  • Do not lift heavy weights with the wrong posture
  • Do Kegel’s exercise
  • Maintain a healthy routine
  • Avoid constipation
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Do not be in the same position for a longer duration
  • Avoid food and drinks that threaten your muscle strength
  • If you’re experiencing it during pregnancy, be patient with yourself

Seek helpStress incontinence help for a woman

Incontinence isn’t a normal part of aging. All those who age do not have to necessarily face stress urinary incontinence. If your pelvic floor muscles are strong enough, you need not worry about it at any age. Pregnancy can take a toll on the health of your muscles, but it is a temporary phase, and you can heal in due time with proper guidance and support.

Never shy away from seeking help when you cannot solve the issues yourself. Experienced doctors and physiotherapists can help you improve the symptoms of incontinence through exercise, medications, or surgery.

Bottom line:

Stress incontinence is a non-life-threatening situation and can be improved. You only need to share your concerns with the right people, and it will be alright.