Don’t Laugh! What You Need to Know About Leakage of Urine

Every day, I see women in my clinic for leakage of urine.  One thing I’ve found over the years is that virtually every woman with bladder problems are very embarrassed by it.  They are so ashamed that it often takes years for them to discuss it with their doctor – and many have never even spoken to their spouse about it. Leakage of urine is normal and one shouldn’t hold back in to discussing it and seeking professional help. If you get nothing out of the rest of this article, at least understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of, and there absolutely are things that can be done to improve it.  Here are some key things to know about leakage of urine, otherwise known as urinary incontinence.

IT IS COMMON

Leakage of urine is very common and normal in women. Our best estimates are that about 1 in 3 women have or will have bothersome leakage of urine.  That’s a huge number! This means that you are not alone.  Think about your 3 closest friends.  Odds are that at least one of them struggles with incontinence, even though they may have never mentioned it.  And since it is common, it is fairly well understood and highly treatable.  You do not have to suffer. You do not have to be embarrassed. You are not alone in this.

IT IS NOT ‘NORMAL’

About a third of women have incontinence, but that does not make it ‘normal’.  I see so many patients who think that leakage of urine in women is a ‘normal’ part of aging. A ‘normal’ result of childbirth.  And that since it is ‘normal’, there’s not much that can be done about it.  This is not true.  Age and childbirth are certainly risk factors for incontinence, but that does not mean its ‘normal’.  If it was normal, then 3 in 3 women would leak, instead of 1 in 3.

IT IS TREATABLE

There are different kinds of leakage of urine, so it is important to see a specialist when it comes seeking care.  For example, leaking when you laugh or jump is called stress incontinence. Leaking on the way to the toilet because you can’t hold it long enough is called urge incontinence. Treatment for these are very different, and you don’t want to waste your time or money on the wrong thing.

TREATMENT IS NOT NECESSARILY SURGERY

There are surgical options for urinary incontinence, but surgery is not the only option.  Depending on your symptoms, goals, and health status, options range from physical therapy, bladder training, vaginal inserts, medications, minor office procedures, and surgery.  Surgery is obviously going to be the quick fix for some (but not all!) types of incontinence, but don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s the only option.

If you are struggling with leakage of urine, please don’t be ashamed to mention it to your doctor.  And visit the resources section of this site for links to more information.