Incontinence: Common Female Bladder Problems

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Often, it starts after the baby’s born: You head to urinary incontinence, defined as leakage at least once in the past year. The rates of bladder muscles.

Conditions such as Overflow incontinence. If you can’t empty your bladder every time you go to the bathroom and experience a frequent or constant dribbling of urine, you have overflow incontinence.

Certain contractions or bladder obstructions.

Incontinence a Big Problem for Young Women

Among teens and young women, incontinence problems are typically related to sports injuries, says Pamela Moalli, MD, a professor of urogynecology at the University of Pittsburgh Magee-Womens Research Institute. “About 20% of college athletes report leakage of urine during sports activities,” she tells WebMD.

“Women in high-impact sports are at highest risk — parachuters, gymnasts, runners,” says Moalli. “In these sports, you’re hitting the ground hard, which can damage pelvic muscles and connective tissue that support the bladder.”

Many young women have pre-existing biological reasons putting them at higher risk, says Niall Galloway, MD, FRCS, professor of urology and director of the Emory Continence Center at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

“It runs in families,” he tells WebMD. “Just as bad eyesight runs in families, so can weak pelvic muscles. It’s not that they’ve been overdoing it with Bladder training: By lengthening the time between trips to the bathroom, bladder training can help women with urge incontinence.

You start by urinating frequently — every 30 minutes or so — and increasing the time gradually until you’re going every three to four hours.

Relaxation exercises — breathing slowly and deeply when the urge strikes — may also help. Once the urge passes, wait five minutes and go to the bathroom even if you don’t feel like you need to anymore. Slowly increase the amount of waiting time.

Electrical stimulation: This can be used to strengthen muscles with stress incontinence or calm overactive muscles with urge incontinence.

A small probe inserted in the Biofeedback: This involves becoming attuned to your body’s functioning, to gain control over muscles to suppress urges.

Biofeedback typically involves wearing sensors to track certain bodily functions such as muscle tension, then learning how to control those functions. It can be very effective in controlling bladder muscles, says Brubaker.

Hormone Creams: Oxytrol, Enablexand skin irritation at the patch site does occur in some patients.

Surgery: There are 300 surgical options to treat incontinence, says Brubaker.

“The hard part is picking the surgery that has the best chance of working well for that woman long-term,” he says. “Surgery can create problems. It can cause difficulty in urinating, worsen an urge incontinence problem, or it can do nothing to solve the problem.”

A large NIH study is examining the use of a sling — a medical device that is surgically inserted into the vagina and positioned underneath the urethra, says Brubaker.

“It helps the urethral sphincter remain closed when abdominal pressure tries to open it. At least, we think that’s how it works,” he says. “We have only five-year outcomes on one group of these devices. But they look promising.”

“Before having any surgery, ask your doctor for names of other patients who have had the procedure in question,” says Galloway.

“Talk to them, find out how it worked. You’ll be in a much better position to decide what to do.”