Do you ever have little leaks? They happen involuntarily usually when you’re performing an activity like running down the stairs or lifting a heavy box. Or maybe you experience bladder leaks when you sneeze or cough or even laugh too hard. And the leaks can range from a few drops that can be absorbed by a pantyliner to a heavier stream that is visible through clothes. You’re not alone! You may have a urinary incontinence problem called Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI, and it impacts over 15 million adult women in the U.S. There are several ways in which a woman can develop bladder leaks, sometimes it can be more than one.
Women who remain active throughout their lives know the benefits of it. Being active and exercising helps your body with heart health, mental health, and with lowering chances of diseases. But being active can put a lot of strain on your body over the years, which is why some women develop light bladder leaks. SUI is thought to be caused by the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that regulate and control the flow of urine your body produces. Years of high-impact activities like running or gymnastics can have a hand in weakening these muscles and lead to the occasional light leak. In fact, a study in 2016 reported that 41% of female athletes have experienced urinary incontinence. So, while being active is integral to a healthy lifestyle, years of high-impact exercises may have an effect on your pelvic floor.
As we age, our muscles begin to lose mass and function in a process called age-related sarcopenia. We also begin to lose muscle tone and flexibility as we age due to changes in our nervous systems and genetics. Unfortunately, the pelvic floor muscle is also affected by the natural aging process. Menopausal women may develop SUI due to the lower levels of estrogen produced, thinning the lining of the urethra. In addition to losing muscle mass and changing hormonal factors, women that are older have simply been alive longer and their bodies have gone through more stress than a younger woman. While experiencing light bladder leaks as we age is common, it should not be considered a normal part of the aging process.
After Childbirth or Surgery
Many women experience leaks after they have given birth, as a vaginal birth can cause some serious damage to the pelvic floor, nerves, and urethra. In fact, it’s been reported that approximately 30% of women will experience light bladder leaks within 5 years of their first vaginal birth. Women who have had surgeries like a hysterectomy that involve or interfere with the pelvic floor are more likely to have those muscles weaken and can lead to the occasional leak.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, more than 2 in 3 women in the United States are considered overweight or obese. Having extra weight forces extra pressure on your bladder and urinary tract, and combined with weakened pelvic floor muscles, can lead to the occasional leak with SUI. It’s also been shown that being obese increases demand on the continence system by applying more pressure on the bladder by coughing compared to normal-weight women.
There are options available for women experiencing light bladder leaks. Talk with your doctor and decide what option is the best for your body and your lifestyle.
Pads & Liners – Worn like menstrual pads or liners they are meant to discreetly absorb urine leaks. Usually available in drug stores and retailers with the menstruation products. While pads and liners may work short-term, they are not safe or effective to wear all day and are made of non-biodegradable material that is added to landfills.
Sling Surgery – Some women opt for a surgically implanted sling made of either mesh or organic tissue that is inserted to support the urethra. While common, the FDA and pelvic mesh manufacturers are currently working to make them safer. Until then, many of them are off the market.
Colposuspension – Sometimes referred to as the Burch procedure, it is performed by placing two stitches on either side of the urethra to support the bladder.
Hormonal Ointments – Developed to strengthen vaginal tissue. This is usually most helpful for menopausal women that need more estrogen.
Kegels – Kegels are pelvic floor exercises that women of all ages can do. Simply contract your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds, release, and repeat about 10 times 3 times a day. Additionally, exercises like squats, bridges, and other core workouts will strengthen the pelvic floor. While Kegels are great, it takes time and dedication to see results just like any other workout.
Another solution for light bladder leaks is Revive, the revolutionary bladder support product for women. Revive is placed into the vagina by the user much like a tampon would be. Once the device is comfortably in place, it can safely prevent leaks for up to 12 hours a day. When done, simply remove the device using the removal string, clean and store in the case until the next use (yes, it’s reusable!) Revive is FDA cleared for over-the-counter use and is available in stores nationwide.