When a woman becomes a mother, almost everything changes in her life – sleep schedule, financial choices, weight, hormones, the list can go on. Another change? Developing light accidental leaks during the day. It’s a pretty common change that moms go through and there’s a wealth of information available about motherhood and post-birth leaks. But what if you’ve never had a child through your own pregnancy? Can you develop these leaks? Absolutely.
What is LBL?
To understand why moms and non-moms alike develop light bladder leaks, it is important to understand the disorder behind it. Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI is when pressure or stress is put on the bladder, urinary tract, or abdomen and results in an accidental leak. The leak can vary in type from a couple of virtually unnoticeable drops to a fuller stream that’s hard to ignore. The pressure that triggers these leaks can be pretty small, like a sneeze, cough, or laugh. Women also experience these leaks when being active, having leaks triggered by running, jumping, or lifting, for example. SUI develops because the muscles that support the bladder and urinary tract, called the pelvic floor, are weakened or damaged (through vaginal birth, for example.) Both women and men can develop SUI, but women are far more likely to. More than a third of moms have reported light leakage, even years after delivery.
The C-Section Exception
Some moms bring their child into the world via cesarean section, sometimes referred to as a C-section. This procedure can be defined as “a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus.” Women may plan to have this procedure done if pregnancy complications develop or if they’ve had a C-section before and do not want a vaginal birth. While the procedure may be planned, it is likely that doctors will not know if it is necessary until labor is underway. Mothers who have delivered through a cesarean section have reported SUI symptoms at a less frequent rate than mothers who have delivered vaginally. While there are fewer women reporting symptoms of SUI after a c-section, the decrease is not substantial enough to recommend the procedure to prevent light leaks, as noted by the New England Journal of Medicine.
Beyond Being a Mom
So what if you’ve never had a kid (even though we recognize and appreciate all kinds of moms!) of your own, and you still experience light bladder leaks? You’re not alone! There are plenty of risk factors that may impact your pelvic floor and urinary health that go beyond motherhood.
Age – As women age, the pelvic floor muscles that help control the flow of urine start to weaken and lose flexibility and function with the rest of the muscles.
Hormonal Changes – Women’s bodies go through a lot of hormonal ups and downs during their lifetime. During menopause, the production of estrogen is decreased. Estrogen is a hormone that helps line and support the tissue surrounding the urethra, so the decreased production results in light bladder leaks as the tissue weakens.
Lifestyle Choices – Women who smoke are at a higher risk for developing SUI as bladder health is compromised in addition to having repeated impact weakening the pelvic floor with chronic coughing.
Weight – Overweight or women that are obese have more weight and pressure on their urinary tract and pelvic floor, which may cause leaks. Obese people have also been found to have weaker maximum muscle strength compared to individuals that are not obese.
Surgery – Women that receive a hysterectomy to remove all or part of the uterus may experience leaks as the procedure directly impacts and involves the pelvic floor and surrounding tissue.
Diabetes – Women with diabetes may develop nerve damage called neuropathy, which may impact the nerves in the pelvic floor.
All of these risk factors go beyond being a mother. Women of all ages, races, and medical histories have reported light bladder leakage at some point in their lives. In fact, SUI is more common than you may think. One study found that the prevalence of urinary incontinence to be 16% for women younger than 30 years and 29% for women aged 30 to 60 years. The investigators found SUI to be more common than urge urinary incontinence, with 78% of women having SUI versus 51% with urge urinary incontinence.
There are plenty of solutions on the market meant for women suffering from SUI. However, these products, exercises, and medications all have pros and cons that can impact your health, such as the increased risk of infection with pads, and the time it takes for pelvic floor exercises to show results. Another safe, reusable, and easy solution for women that experience light bladder leaks? Revive™, a small, flexible, bladder support device that works from the inside out to reduce leaks for up to 12 hours a day. FDA approved for over-the-counter use, Revive is simply inserted like a tampon for comfortable support. After use, simply remove with the provided retrieval strings, clean, and store for the next use. Available at retailers nationwide!