Women go through plenty of hormonal and physical changes in their lifetime. Everything from puberty to pregnancy to menopause has a significant impact on the female body, both inside and out. With menopause, a woman reaches “the point in time when menstrual cycles permanently cease due to the natural depletion of ovarian oocytes from aging. The diagnosis is typically made retrospectively after the woman has missed menses for 12 consecutive months. It marks the permanent end of fertility and the average age of menopause is 51 years.” While women usually experience a certain set of symptoms such as mood swings and hot flashes, most do not consider another symptom that may occur: light bladder leaks.
What is LBL?
Light bladder leaks occur with a condition called Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), where the pelvic floor muscles that support the urethra and regulate the flow of urine are damaged or weakened. Because these muscles are weakened, people with SUI experience leaks when any pressure or “stress” is used upon these muscles. The pressure could be small and caused by common triggers – laughing, sneezing, lifting something, etc. While both men and women can develop SUI, it is significantly more common in women. There are several reasons that a woman may develop light bladder leaks, and it is possible to have a combination of reasons and issues causing leaks.
Age – As we age, our bodies naturally lose muscle mass and ability. The pelvic floor may also weaken with the rest of the body, leading to leaks.
Weight – Women who are overweight tend to develop SUI at a higher rate than women of a healthy or normal weight. Extra pounds mean extra stress or pressure on the pelvic floor and bladder.
Lifestyle Choices – Those who smoke and tend to lead their lives on the unhealthier side may develop LBL. The combination of not exercising and chronic coughing from smoke inhalation can impact pelvic floor health. Conversely, those who have athletic backgrounds or hobbies can also develop light bladder leaks from repeated impact over a period of time, like running or mountain biking.
Surgery – A Hysterectomy is the most likely procedure to cause leakage post-surgery. This is due to the fact that during the procedure the pelvic floor and surrounding tissues are directly impacted.
Childbirth – Women who have had a vaginal birth are more likely to develop SUI than women who have not, even years after delivery.
Menopause, as mentioned before, can also be a reason for light bladder leaks. This is because, during menopause, women produce less of the female sex hormone called estrogen. Estrogen happens to line the urethra, the tube that released urine from the body, and with the lining weakened, women may experience leaks.
Hormonal Solutions & Their Benefits
If you’re experiencing light bladder leaks more frequently than you have before, or if they’re seriously impacting your day-to-day life, talk with your doctor. Having an open and honest conversation with a healthcare professional will allow them to help you better and more accurately. If you and your doctor feel that your SUI is stemming from decreased estrogen production as a result of menopause, they may suggest a hormonal treatment sometimes referred to as HRT. Estrogens have been shown to increase urethral pressure in up to 30% women and to significantly improve or cure stress urinary incontinence in many cases. Some women may be prescribed a topical vaginal cream that contains estrogen. Some women may opt for an estrogen patch or internal ring to help replace the hormone. Oral estrogen is not recommended for incontinence and may worsen conditions.
Cons of Hormonal Treatment
Like all treatments and solutions, it’s beneficial to take a look at the pros as well as the cons. The most obvious con for this solution is simply that it may not help you with your incontinence if the lack of estrogen is not the root of the problem. Another con is the chance of developing side effects from the medication. The side effects of Estrace, a common form of a topical estrogen cream is said to have these potential side effects: nausea, vomiting, bloating, stomach pain, breast tenderness, headache, weight changes vaginal itching or discharge, mood changes, breast lumps, spotting or breakthrough bleeding, dark areas of the skin on the face (melasma), or problems wearing contact lenses. If you experience any of these symptoms while using medication for your SUI, contact your doctor.
Another new solution for women suffering from light bladder leaks regardless of the cause is now available at retailers nationwide. Revive™ is a reusable bladder support device that is inserted like a tampon to help reduce accidental leaks for up to 12 hours a day. Each box contains a carrying case and a month’s supply of strings for women to easily remove, clean, carry and reuse anywhere. FDA-cleared and available without a prescription. Find Revive at a location near you with our store finder!