It might feel as though your accidental leak, while you were out with friends or family, is the most embarrassing thing in the world (at the moment). The cleanup, the chance of odor, and missing out on big moments to deal with a leak is at the forefront of women’s concerns when a leak happens. Another thought that probably crosses your mind is “why me?” There’s no simple answer, but you may feel better knowing that it isn’t ONLY you dealing with light bladder leaks.
What is SUI?
So, what are these light bladder leaks and why do we develop them? Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) by definition is “the complaint of any involuntary loss of urine on effort or physical exertion or on sneezing or coughing.” Basically, whenever the urinary tract, bladder, or abdomen are engaged or put under pressure, a leak can happen. The leak can vary in size and flow from a couple of light dribbles to a full-on stream. SUI occurs because the pelvic floor muscles that regulate and control the flow of urine are weakened or damaged. There are actually two kinds of SUI that women can experience, although it is thought by researchers and experts that most women have a little bit of both.
Urethral hypermobility – the urethra shifts position due to an increase in abdominal pressure.
Intrinsic sphincteric deficiency (ISD) – the sphincter doesn’t seal off effectively at your bladder.
Who Can Get SUI?
Both men and women can develop light bladder leaks with SUI, but it is significantly more common in women with around 1 in 3 women suffering from symptoms in their life while less than 10% of urinary incontinence cases in men are SUI. Even though women experience light bladder leaks at a higher rate than their male counterparts, certain previous and current medical conditions along with lifestyle choices can increase the likelihood of developing SUI.
Smoking – Smoking increases your chances of developing leaks over time as repeated coughing puts stress on the pelvic floor, weakening it. In addition, smoking is a known bladder irritant causing more frequent bathroom trips and can lead to bladder cancer.
Obesity – Overweight or obese women are more likely to develop SUI due to the extra pressure applied to the urinary tract on a daily basis. In addition, women that are considered obese also tend to have less muscle mass in the body, including the pelvic floor muscles.
Childbirth – Giving birth vaginally can cause some serious damage to your pelvic floor and nerves. In one study around 29% of women reported leaks up to 4 years after their first delivery.
Surgeries – Surgical procedures that directly or indirectly involve the pelvic floor and surrounding tissue can weaken or damage it post-procedure. The most common procedure that women can get that may lead to leaks is a hysterectomy.
Menopause – Estrogen is a hormone that helps line and support the urethra. During menopause, women’s bodies produce less of this hormone which may lead to leaks as the lining is weakened.
Not a Sign of Aging
While the statistics show that older women develop SUI symptoms more than younger women, light bladder leaks can develop in women as young as 18. Most think of bladder leaks as the aftereffect of giving birth or getting older, however one study found that 25-28% of collegiate and high school athletes also experienced light bladder leaks despite their age and having never been pregnant or given birth. The statistics went up still after researchers took a closer look at intrapelvic activities and sports like gymnastics, dancing, and trampoline work with around 60-80% of female athletes in those sports reporting involuntary leaks. So while SUI may seem like just another sign of getting older, know that it can happen to women much younger than you.
With SUI being such a common problem for women for generations, plenty of solutions have been developed, researched, and tested to help improve a woman’s quality of life.
Pads and Liners – Incontinence pads and liners are made specifically to absorb urine and keep you dry for a couple of hours, protecting your clothes (and saving you the embarrassment!). These products line your underwear, similar to a menstrual pad and can be worn for up to 8 hours. Unfortunately, these products can be uncomfortable, bulky, and increase your chance of infection if left unchanged for too long.
Improving Lifestyle – As mentioned before, smokers and those that are overweight are more likely to develop light bladder leaks, so making some lifestyle changes to improve overall health may reduce your leaks.
Kegels – Kegels are exercises to help you restrengthen the pelvic floor muscles over time. For a step-by-step guide, check out our blog.
Medication – If you and your doctor determine that your leaks may be a result of hormonal changes with menopause, a topical estrogen cream or medication may be able to reduce your leaks by lining the urethra.
Revive™ is the new bladder support device for women that works from the inside out, no matter what led to you SUI. FDA-cleared for over-the-counter use, the device is easy and safe to wear for up to 12 hours a day of leak protection. When you’re done, Revive can be removed, cleaned, and stored to be reused for up to 31 times.