Our health and overall sense of wellbeing is a fragile thing, probably more so than we realize. Every choice we make - what we eat, how we exercise, what hobbies we have, and the people we surround ourselves with, can all influence our health and quality of life. A common challenge to quality of life that people may face throughout the course of their lives, is light bladder leakage whenever they laugh, sneeze, run, or bend over. This kind of condition is known as Stress Urinary Incontinence, or SUI, and it impacts over 15 million women (but can develop in men, too!) in the US. So, what causes these embarrassing leaks? It turns out, it could be a variety of things from medical history to those years of track and field. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of SUI.
One reason why stress incontinence is seen in women more than men is that some women give birth and have children, which can seriously impact urinary health. SUI is commonly seen in women who have delivered one or more children vaginally and can also be seen in women who have gone through labor intending to deliver vaginally but had to undergo a cesarean section due to complications during birth. The reason that childbirth and light bladder leaks are so closely related is due to the fact that stress incontinence is linked to the pelvic floor, the group of muscles in the floor of the pelvic area that supports the bladder, uterus, and rectum (in males, the prostate is supported). These muscles help regulate and control the flow of urine, and when they become weak or damaged, they are unable to do so properly. As one could probably imagine, the childbirth process wreaks havoc on a woman’s body, especially the pelvic floor. Women may experience leaks postpartum, in fact, What To Expect reports that 1 in 3 moms do. Women may also only start to experience leaks years after the birth of their baby or babies. In an article from Parents Magazine, a study from Obstetrics & Gynecology reported that “five years after delivery, one-third to one-half of women report some degree of spritzing; 10 percent to 20 percent of women report having leakage that they consider ‘socially bothersome.’”
As we age, our bodies change. A lot. In addition to wrinkling skin, fading ability to hear and see well, and grey hairs, we also begin to lose muscle mass, function, and flexibility due to age-related sarcopenia. Pelvic floor muscles are also impacted by muscle loss as we age, which can lead to stress incontinence. While this is not a normal part of aging, it is pretty common. According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), “29% of individuals ages 60-70 experience leakage when coughing, sneezing, or laughing compared to 17% of men and women ages 30-39. Approximately, 1 out of 3 women over the age of 45, and 1 out of every 2 women over 65 have stress urinary incontinence.” Menopause, the ceasing of menstruation, usually occurs when a woman is around 40 years old and can also impact urinary health and lead to light bladder leaks. This is because estrogen, the female sex hormone, production is reduced as a result of menopause. Estrogen helps to line and support the tissue surrounding the urethra, and when that tissue is weakened, light bladder leaks may occur.
Surgical procedures that involve or interfere with the pelvic floor muscles or surrounding tissue may lead to light bladder leaks. In men, SUI can occur after surgery to remove all or part of the prostate. According to Healthline,“ The prostate gland surrounds the male urethra, and its removal can result in the loss of support of the urethra.” In women, undergoing a procedure like a hysterectomy may cause stress incontinence. A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove all or part of the uterus. In addition, those facing pelvic surgeries to remove cancerous growths in the case of bladder, rectal, or cervical cancers may also experience light bladder leaks.
Leading a healthy life is too often the answer to so many challenges we face. As we’ve said before, lifestyle and health choices we make impact both our physical and mental wellbeing. This can be said for whether or not we develop light bladder leaks as well. Certain lifestyle choices can increase the risk of developing light bladder leaks throughout our lives. Being overweight or obese - Those who are overweight or obese add more weight and pressure to the bladder and pelvic floor over time compared to normal-weight people. In addition, obesity may lead to Type 2 Diabetes which can damage nerves that control the bladder and cause further leakage. Smoking - Smokers that develop a chronic cough from a lifetime of smoke inhalation are also adding additional pressure and stress on the bladder and pelvic floor with every cough. Repeated heavy lifting or high impact sports - Although exercise is important and good for our health, individuals with years of experience in high-impact activities may develop stress incontinence. This is commonly seen in weight lifters, dancers, marathon runners, and horseback riders. Bladder irritants in diet - While no one food or drink is going to trigger an immediate leak, if you’re suffering from SUI try to avoid known bladder irritants. These include things like coffee, soda, chocolate, and alcohol.
If you’re experiencing symptoms associated with Stress Urinary Incontinence, talk to your doctor about what solutions may be right for you. Depending on your lifestyle and medical history, your doctor may recommend the over-the counter bladder support device called Revive®. Revive was designed for women with SUI to reduce leaks internally for up to 12 hours a day! It’s comfortable, safe, and simple for women to use. Find yours at a retailer near you!