Did you know that one in every three women who have had a baby wet themselves? Did you also know that women who have had a baby are almost three times as likely to have urinary incontinence than women who have not had a baby? In fact, one in five Australians aged 15 and over have some form of bladder control problem! Urinary incontinence (UI) is far more common than most people realise, and contrary to common belief it is not a normal part of having a baby or aging. In most cases it can be treated!
UI includes any complaint of involuntary loss of urine. This leakage can be anything from an occasional, small dribble to a complete loss of bladder contents. There are two main subtypes of UI. Stress UI is the loss of urine on effort or physical exertion, or on sneezing or coughing, while Urgency UI is the loss of urine associated with a sudden need to go to the toilet but not making it in time. Some people may have a combination of both subtypes which is call Mixed UI.
So, what causes UI? There are countless factors that can contribute to or increase the risk of UI. These can include weakness in the pelvic floor muscles, injury to the pelvic floor after vaginal deliveries, chronic constipation or a chronic cough, pregnancy or menopause, pelvic organ prolapse, obesity, overactivity of the bladder, neurological medical conditions and even some medications. Anything that can interfere with the muscles and nerves that help the bladder to hold or pass urine can lead to UI.
Due to the wide and varying nature of UI, treatment is often multifaceted in its approach. Some people will need to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles to better support their bladder, while others may need to improve their bladder habits and even change their diet. In other cases, medication may be an option or surgery may be required. The most important thing to note is that no matter how small your symptoms may be, it is not something to ignore. Leaving UI and hoping it goes away is not the solution and can often lead to more severe issues later in life.
The good news is that in most cases this can be treated. Your GP or a physiotherapist trained in continence management will be able to take a comprehensive look at your bladder control problems and assist you in finding the most appropriate treatment pathway!