Interestingly, page 11 of the recently released Australian Government National Women’s Health Strategy 2020 2030 document states that 80% of all people with incontinence are women or girls and that 25% of women have pelvic floor disorders.
The strategy was prepared in consultation with the public as well as expert panels and can be download in full in either PDF or Word on this link
Types of Incontinence
There are many forms of incontinence, so it’s important to identify which type you have.
- If you experience leakage when you cough, laugh, sneeze or lift something heavy, you have Stress Incontinence
- If you have a sudden and urgent need to urinate, making it difficult to get to the toilet in time, you have Urge Incontinence
Functional Incontinence simply refers to cases where a physical or cognitive condition makes it difficult to get to the toilet in time
- Combinations of these types are also common, including Mixed Incontinence which has symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence.
Causes of incontinence in women and girls
Incontinence is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying issue. To determine the best treatment, the cause of your continence issue must be correctly identified.
Known causes include:
A weakened pelvic floor muscle. This is a sling of muscle that supports your pelvic organs. Attached to your pubic bone at the front and coccyx (or tail bone) at the back, it plays a key role in ‘holding on’ when we have the urge to urinate, pass wind or a bowel movement. Like all muscles, if it’s not exercised, it can weaken over time. In women, it’s prone to damage from the extra weight placed on it during pregnancy and the stretching during childbirth. Other factors that have an adverse effect are being overweight or obese, a chronic cough often associated with smoking, persistent constipation and straining or repeated lifting of heavy weights – including toddlers!
Hormonal changes. Although not conclusive, the reduction of estrogen associated with menopause is thought to contribute to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscle and an Overactive Bladder
Infection of the urinary tract. Commonly referred to as a UTI, this bacterial infection starts in the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder to exit the body) and when left untreated, can progress to the bladder and kidneys. Frequent urge incontinence, as well as a painful, burning sensation when passing urine, is associated with a UTI.
Prolapse This refers to pelvic organs dropping out of place, including the bladder, urethra, bowel, vagina, uterus and rectum, all of which can have an impact on normal urinary function.
Chronic disease and injury. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, making it harder to judge when you need to use the toilet. Spinal cord injury, traumatic pelvic injury or pelvic surgery can all have a similar effect. Arthritis is just one of many physical disabilities that can make getting to the bathroom and removing clothing in time difficult.
Bladder Cancer. While rare, it is a possibility and yet another reason never to ignore incontinence.
Treatment of incontinence
Having the type of incontinence and underlying cause correctly identified is critical to determining the best treatment. Don’t put up with it as treatments can improve and even resolve the issue.
Pelvic floor exercises. Strengthening your pelvic floor is often all it takes to improve or even fix many cases. You can read about the exercises and watch the easy-to-follow instructional videos here
Lifestyle changes. If you’re a smoker, quitting will reduce the cough and take the pressure off your pelvic floor. Similarly, if you’re obese, constipated or restricting your fluid intake, addressing these will help your incontinence. This article, 11 Tips for Incontinence might assist.
Bladder retraining. Over time, we can get into poor habits, like going to the toilet ‘just in case’, holding on for too long, drinking less water and more caffeinated drinks, which can all contribute to incontinence. With the help of a Bladder Diary, retraining your bladder to improve function can be very effective.
Medication, surgery, etc. If the cause is a prolapse, it’s likely you’ll need surgery to correct it, and that will fix the incontinence. You can read more about the different surgeries for incontinence here. Medications can also affect incontinence – both positively and negatively –so understanding if any of your regular medication is the problem or, if there’s medication you should be on to relieve the leaks, should be discussed with your doctor.
See your doctor. While it may seem embarrassing, doctors have seen and heard it all before so you should feel open to discussing any continence issues you have with them. This article, Questions for the Doctor will help you prepare. It’s essential to have the cause of incontinence correctly diagnosed to make sure the right treatment is recommended.
While getting to the bottom of why you’re incontinent and waiting for treatment to take effect, you may feel more comfortable with the security of an absorbent, disposable product.
The TENA range includes super small TENA Liners, an extensive range of TENA Pads and TENA Pants that looks and feel just like regular underwear. All are designed to handle the thinner, faster flow of a weak bladder to keep you dry and odour-free.
Check out the TENA Product Finder Tool, and Free Samples to find the product that best suits your needs.
Essity Australasia makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.