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Why Does Urinary Incontinence Affect More Women Than Men?

incontinence-in-women

Urine that is made by the kidneys and stored in the bladder is held by the sphincter muscles unless it is forced out through a tube called the urethra. Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine or bladder control problems. Such a condition can occur when the bladder muscles suddenly contract, and the sphincter muscles are not strong enough to keep the urethra shut. Since women encounter certain unique health events like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, they are more prone to problems of urinary incontinence. The two most common types of urinary incontinence that affect women are urge incontinence and stress incontinence. The reasons why women are affected by urinary incontinence than men are as follows –

Menopause

Women, who go through menopause, face difficulty in controlling their bladder. The ovaries stop producing estrogen during this time of their life. This hormone is essential for controlling the menstrual cycle and also during pregnancy. Some of the common reasons associated with incontinence include –

  • The vaginal tissues become less elastic.
  • The lining of the urethra starts to thin out.
  • The pelvic floor muscles begin to weaken.

During or after the period of such menopause women may experience problems like –

  • Stress incontinence
  • Urge Incontinence
  • Painful Urination
  • Nocturia

Pregnancy

Frequent urination is one of the primary signs of pregnancy. More than 50 percent of women experience incontinence problems during pregnancy, which can increase as the baby grows and lasts up to a few weeks after birth. Some of the incontinence problems experienced by pregnant women include –

  • Urgency Incontinence
  • Stress Incontinence
  • Transient Incontinence
  • Mixed Incontinence

The bladder is located just above the pelvic bones and is supported by the pelvic floor. During childbirth or pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles are put to the test. Some of the common causes associated with pregnancy incontinence include –

  • Hormones: Changes in hormone secretion during pregnancy can affect the lining of the bladder and urethra, leading to incontinence problems.
  • Medical Conditions: Some medications, including diabetes, anxiety control, etc. that are prescribed during pregnancy, can trigger incontinence problems.
  • Pressure: During pregnancy, physical movements put extra pressure on the bladder, which may result in urine leakage when you sneeze, cough, or laugh.
  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): About 40 percent of women who don’t treat their UTI develop symptoms during pregnancy, leading to incontinence problems.

Hysterectomy

While urinal incontinence is not commonly observed after vaginal hysterectomy, there are several mechanisms that lead to such occurrences. Some of the common reasons attributed to such problems include –

  • The weakening of the pelvic floor or loss of normal functioning of the sphincter muscles after vaginal hysterectomy.
  • An overactive bladder as a result of surgery and changes in the pelvic floor muscles associated with hysterectomy.
  • A fistula that was accidentally created during surgery.

Childbirth And Incontinence

A vast majority of women who give childbirth do not develop incontinence problems. The damage that is created as a result of childbirth repairs on its own as the tissues go through the normal process of healing. Almost half of the women with normal delivery show immediate recovery within days. However, some of them do not regain complete pre-labor strength. Some of the complications associated with such problem include –

  • Moving of the urethra and the bladder during pregnancy.
  • Damage caused to the nerves controlling the bladder.
  • An episiotomy is a cut made to the pelvic floor muscles during delivery so that the fetus comes out more easily.

Conclusion

Irrespective of the cause, women with urinary incontinence problems should seek medical advice from a gynecologist or other physician who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of incontinence problems.

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