This menopausal symptom is one of the most distressing and embarrassing of all menopause symptoms. If you’ve been struggling with last-minute dashes to the restroom, accidents and loss of bladder control, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 40% of all menopausal and post-menopausal women suffer from menopause incontinence.
Menopause incontinence is simply defined as the loss of bladder control. There are two primary types of urinary incontinence related to menopause. Stress urinary incontinence is most common, and occurs when you put pressure on your bladder by laughing, sneezing, coughing or lifting a heavy object. Urge urinary incontinence is a sudden need to urinate, often leading to uncontrollable release of urine. Both stress urinary incontinence and urge urinary incontinence can occur as a result of the hormonal imbalance of menopause.
Symptoms of Menopause Incontinence
Symptoms of menopause incontinence include the frequent need to urinate and the sudden onset of the need to urinate. During menopause, women may experience atrophy of the pelvic muscles, leading to uncontrollable urination that may result in urinary accidents. Stress incontinence can also lead to accidental urination when the body falls under minor stresses, such as during fits of laughter or sneezing.
Secondary symptoms of menopause incontinence can also occur. Sleep may become disrupted as frequent trips to the bathroom become the norm. Women may experience anxiety due to their inability to exert urinary control, affecting social involvement and even romantic relationships.
- Uncontrollable urination
- Urination while sneezing or laughing
- Sudden, urgent need to urinate
- Sleep disruptions
- Urinary accidents
Causes of Menopause Incontinence
The primary cause of menopause incontinence is lack of estrogen. One of the functions of estrogen is to maintain the lining of the bladder and urethra. These linings can deteriorate when estrogen is lacking, contributing to menopause incontinence. In addition, the bladder muscles tend to weaken during menopause, contributing to urinary incontinence as well.
Menopause Incontinence Treatments
Treating the hormonal imbalance of menopause is one way to alleviate menopause-related urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor are also helpful. Cutting back on fluids can help, as well as avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Finally, if you are overweight, weight loss can sometimes alleviate or lessen some cases of menopause incontinence.
Menopause Incontinence FAQs
FAQ: Can a hysterectomy affect urinary incontinence?
A: Some women who have undergone hysterectomies find that they experience higher levels of menopause incontinence. Because of the uterus’s proximity to the bladder — and the fact that both organs are supported by the same pelvic floor muscles — hysterectomies can contribute to lack of control over urinary urges as muscles incur damage during surgery.
Risks of Menopause Incontinence
In addition to the secondary symptoms of urinary incontinence during menopause, women may also experience physical fallout from untreated symptoms. Risks resulting from menopause incontinence include skin rashes from urine irritation and an increased risk of urinary tract infections. Women may be unwilling to engage in sexual activity because of the fear of uncontrollable urine leakage during climax. Anxiety, depression and sleep problems are frequently a result of menopause incontinence.