Stress Incontinence in Women

Many women accidentally leak urine when they sneeze, cough, laugh, jump or run. But bladder leakage is not something you have live with.

The experts at Henry Ford understand that living with incontinence takes a toll on your lifestyle. Worry about leakage may keep you from doing activities that you enjoy.

Stress incontinence is an embarrassing, but common problem for women. It is also very treatable. Our compassionate team of pelvic health specialists is here to help.

What is stress incontinence?

Certain activities put stress or pressure on the bladder. Under pressure, small amounts of urine can leak out of a full bladder. This type of urinary incontinence is called stress incontinence.

Urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder, is a related condition. Women with overactive bladder may not leak urine under stress. They may, however, accidentally lose urine because their need to go is so urgent.

Some women experience symptoms of both stress incontinence and overactive bladder. This is commonly called mixed incontinence.

Stress incontinence causes

If the pelvic floor muscles that support your bladder are weak, you are more likely to experience bladder leakage. Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can all play a part in weakening your pelvic floor muscles.

The urethral sphincter muscle is part of your pelvic floor. It helps keep urine in your bladder and relaxes to let urine flow out. When that muscle is weak, urine can leak out under pressure. Activities that put stress on the bladder include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing vLaughing
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Jumping
  • Running

Stress incontinence treatment

With the right treatment plan, most women find relief from stress incontinence. At Henry Ford, our experts offer a variety of approaches to help improve pelvic floor strength and increase bladder control. Your personalized care plan may include one or more treatments, including:

  • Pelvic floor exercises: Exercises that strengthen pelvic floor muscles (also called Kegel exercises) can help women with mild-to-moderate leakage regain bladder control. We have specialized pelvic floor rehabilitation physical therapists who can teach you an effective regimen of Kegel exercises.
  • Pessary device: A pessary is a small, soft plastic ring you or your doctor inserts into your vagina. Once in place, it puts pressure on the urethra to help prevent urine leaks.
  • Sling surgery: If other, less invasive treatments have not worked, your doctor may suggest a mid-urethral sling. During this surgical procedure, your doctor places a thin piece of mesh underneath your urethra to add support.
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