53% of women between the ages of 20-80 years old experience urinary incontinence (the inability to control the bladder) at some point in their lives (Culligan &Heit, 2000). Less than half of these women do not even mention it to their physician (Burgio, 1994) perhaps because they are too embarrassed, or simply because they think it is normal to experience ‘a bit of leakage’ when they sneeze or laugh. Or, that it is normal after pregnancy or with age. Or, that it is normal because their mom, sister, and best friend all experience a ‘bit of leakage’ too. But it is not normal. Yes, it is common, but not normal. Urinary incontinence can be prevented and treated in most cases.
The two main types of urinary incontinence are stress and urge. It is important to know the difference between the two, and know which one you may have, in order to treat it accurately. However, it is common to have a combination of the two as well.
Stress incontinence is what occurs when the pelvic floor muscles(PFM’s) are unable to stop the flow of urine during actions that put pressure or stress on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, twisting, or lifting. PFM function can be affected because of childbirth or even from low estrogen levels, such as during menstruation or menopause. Other factors that influence PFM function can be found HERE. Read more