For many women under the age of 40, managing bladder leaks during the day is hardly at the forefront of their problems. Especially if they’ve never had children and have been healthy and active most of their lives, women of this age may think that they’re alone when a leak actually DOES happen. While it’s embarrassing to talk about, light bladder leaks happen, and they’re more common than you think (even for women under 40).
What are Light Bladder Leaks?
So why do women develop light bladder leaks in the first place? To understand the cause of these leaks, it is important to understand what Stress Urinary Incontinence is. Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI is defined by the Urology Care Foundation as “when urine leaks out with sudden pressure on the bladder and urethra, causing the sphincter muscles to open briefly. With mild SUI, pressure may be from sudden forceful activities, like exercise, sneezing, laughing or coughing. If your SUI is more severe, you may also leak with less forceful activities like standing up, walking or bending over. Urinary “accidents” like this can range from a few drops of urine to enough to soak through your clothes.” These symptoms can be tied back to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Often times this weakening can be caused by circumstances that would obstruct or damage these muscles and tissue – childbirth, surgery, certain cancers. Other times it can be genetic or brought on by the natural weakening of muscles with age. But what if you don’t necessarily fall into any of these categories? How else would light bladder leakage develop in younger, healthy women?
What if I’ve Never Had Kids?
Not just older women and women who have been pregnant can develop SUI. There are several other factors that could be impacting pelvic floor health and causing leaks.
Obesity – Women that are overweight or obese are more likely to have light bladder leaks occur as muscle mass is weakened and extra weight adds extra pressure on the urinary tract. With the percent of adults aged 20 and over who are overweight, including obese, being at 71.6%, the risk factors are higher for women than before.
Smoking – Women who smoke are more likely to develop SUI as smoking leads to chronic coughing, which can wreak havoc on the pelvic floor muscles. Women may also develop bladder cancer as a result of smoking, which can result in a surgical procedure that can impact pelvic health.
High-Impact Activities – Female athletes that participate in high-impact activities report SUI symptoms even if they’ve never had children and are not over the age of 40. In one study, 70% nulliparous and 30% parous cross-country skiers, 82% nulliparous and 18% parous runners were enlisted. All studied female athletes practiced high-impact sports involving abrupt and repeated increases in intra-abdominal pressure that exceeded perineal floor resistance. The results of the study showed 45.54% of the participants reported leakage of urine associated with sneezing or coughing, which indicated SUI symptoms.
Sex Life & Contraceptives – In one study done in Australia, just over 1,000 women with the median age of 22 filled out a questionnaire that asked about urinary incontinence during routine activities or sports, psychological well-being, physical activity, and health with around 1 in 8 reporting symptoms. Interestingly, they found that women who had been sexually active but did not report the use of oral contraceptives were more likely to report urinary incontinence than women with no history of sexual activity.
Light bladder leaks are embarrassing, inconvenient, and can impact both physical and mental health in women. Thankfully with research and advancements in medical science, solutions are readily available and accessible for women of all ages.
Pads and Liners – These products are usually found in the feminine care aisle and are similar to menstrual pads and liners. However, incontinence products are designed specifically to absorb urine and not menstrual blood, which is a different consistency. Pads and liners must be changed consistently to avoid infections and the chance of odor or irritation.
Kegels – Some women may opt to do pelvic floor exercises called Kegels to restrengthen the muscles and regain control over the bladder and urinary tract. While these exercises are easy to do, they take time and patience for results to be seen.
Surgery – Some women may choose to have pelvic sling surgery done to support the bladder internally. While surgery should bring confidence and a reduction in SUI symptoms, one study found that only 65.7% became completely continent, 20% were continent for at least two months, and 1.43% continued to be incontinent after surgery. Even more troubling is the postoperative complication rate was 31%. This may be why the FDA has halted the production and distribution of these products.
Another solution is available over-the-counter for women to help reduce leaks, no matter their age. Revive™ is a reusable bladder support device that works from the inside out to reduce leaks for up to 12 hours a day. Easy to use, clean, and store for the next time you use it. Available without a prescription at retailers nationwide in the feminine hygiene aisle!