Causes of Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence resulting in spontaneous urine leakage can be a source of intense anxiety for women, impacting both quality of life and mental health.
There are a myriad of reasons why women develop continence problems, and some of the main contributors include pregnancy, childbirth, the menopause, urological complications and constipation. It is categorised by leaking urine through exertion; coughing, laughing, running, jumping, and cannot be controlled.
Bladder weakness usually occurs when the muscles in the pelvic floor or sphincter has been damaged or weakened. The pelvic floor are layers of muscles that work like a hammock to support the pelvic organs, including the bladder, bowel, and uterus. When they contract, the openings to the vagina, anus and urethra tighten, ensuring that continence is maintained.
During pregnancy, pelvic floor muscles support the baby and assist in the birthing process, but the act of childbirth and carrying the baby weakens these important muscles, especially if delivery is prolonged or the baby is large.
The menopause is also a reason why women develop stress urinary incontinence. The pelvic floor becomes weaker following hormonal changes within the body. Even before the menopause, some women may also recognise that their bladder becomes weaker than normal in the week before their period. Surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy can also lead to stress incontinence. Other factors include old age, obesity, excessive straining from constipation, heavy lifting and chronic coughing.
A high proportion of women do not talk about nor seek specialist help for these troublesome symptoms. In the first instance, visiting the GP and discussing symptoms is the first step to accessing help. A GP may refer onto a continence specialist nurse/physiotherapist who will give further help and advice.