Do you pee a little each time you cough or sneeze? Here is what your body is trying to tell you
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
Have you ever experienced a little dribble of urine when you cough or sneeze? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This phenomenon is known as stress urinary incontinence (SUI), and it affects a significant number of women. In fact, while official statistics indicate that around 11% of women suffer from SUI, the actual numbers suggest that it may be as high as 50% to 60%. Surprising, isn’t it? Most women have no idea that there are effective treatments available and resign themselves to living with this problem. But don’t despair, because I’m about to shed some light on this issue.
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The Hidden Prevalence of Stress Urinary Incontinence
Most women who experience SUI are unaware of how common it truly is. Only a minor group of women, approximately 11%, seek medical attention for this problem. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. According to a study published in the Muller Journal of Medical Science and Research, the actual prevalence of stress urinary incontinence in India is a staggering 54.61%. This means that a large majority of women are silently suffering without realizing that treatment options are available.
The Culprits Behind Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence in women can be attributed to physical changes in the pelvic floor. These changes are often a result of factors such as vaginal childbirth, instrumental deliveries, obesity, menopause, or in rare cases, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
It is quite common for women to experience SUI after giving birth. Many complain of bladder weakness and the involuntary leakage of urine during activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, jumping, or even during workouts at the gym. Normally, the urinary bladder and the urethra work together to prevent urine leakage. The urethral pressure is designed to consistently exceed bladder pressure, which ensures that urine is not leaked unintentionally. However, the process can be disrupted after childbirth due to damage to the pelvic muscles, resulting in decreased urethral pressure and ultimately causing stress urinary incontinence.
Other Factors to Consider
While childbirth is a primary cause of stress urinary incontinence, menopause and diabetes can contribute to the problem as well. During menopause, a lack of collagen and elastin compromises the integrity of the urethra. When abdominal pressure increases due to actions such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing, the bladder pressure exceeds the urethral pressure, leading to urine leakage. Diabetes and certain medical conditions can further complicate the issue, causing both urge and stress incontinence. It is essential to rule out cystitis in diabetes patients and monitor blood pressure regularly. Managing blood sugar levels, treating infections, using female probiotics, and applying local estrogen creams are common strategies to alleviate sudden urges to urinate.
Seeking Proper Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect that you have stress urinary incontinence, it is crucial to consult with your gynecologist. They will conduct a thorough gynecological examination, including a physical examination to check for local hygiene or infection (atrophic vaginitis), a Pap smear, a bimanual examination, and abdominal and transvaginal ultrasounds. Ultrasound scans can also help identify chronic cystitis and bladder emptying issues.
Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor with Kegel Exercises
Once diabetes and infections have been ruled out, one conservative approach to improving the integrity of the pelvic floor muscles is through Kegel exercises. These exercises can enhance urethral pressure, reducing the severity of incontinence. Typically, patients are advised to contract their pelvic muscles forcefully for 30 seconds, three times a day, for a period of three months. For peri-menopausal women, the effectiveness of Kegel exercises can be enhanced with the local application of estrogen creams.
Exploring Advanced Techniques
In cases where conservative methods do not yield satisfactory results, there are advanced techniques available to enhance urethral pressure.
In conclusion, stress urinary incontinence can significantly impact your quality of life. If you find yourself battling with this issue, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a qualified gynecologist. Remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence when effective treatments can help you regain control and confidence.