Is Urinary Incontinence a Normal Part of Aging for Women?
I know you’ve been there. Busting a move on the dance floor, lifting that killer set of weights, chasing the new puppy around the backyard, or enjoying a good belly-laugh with friends—and then it happens. The unexpected loss of control and an unwelcome bit of wetness that says you’re leaking again, sending you to the bathroom to repair the damage to your underclothes—and your pride.
We’ve all been there, done that, bought the incontinence pads. But is urinary incontinence a normal part of aging that we must accept?
Urinary incontinence in women has long been an accepted part of the aging process. Women live, laugh, love—and end up with weakened pelvic floor muscles and urinary control issues for our trouble. These frustrating incontinence problems can drive even the most energetic woman to break out her lavender cardigan, buy a beaded chain for her reading glasses and tuck a tissue into her sleeve, reluctantly leaving youth and movement behind.
Don’t settle into the rocking chair just yet, my friend.
Damp underwear and diminished self-esteem may have been the only options available to our grandmothers. Women today don’t have to accept urinary incontinence as a normal part of the aging process. There are treatment options available that can help maintain pelvic floor strength and tone, allowing us to remain active, energetic and leak-free well into our—dare I say it?—golden years.
How Common are Bladder Problems in Women?
Urinary incontinence in women is still a very much a stigmatized condition since no one wants to admit to her family, friends, or physician that she still, on occasion, pees her pants.
This is most definitely not an isolated problem, affecting women across all demographic groups and income levels, often with a significant impact on their personal and professional lives. Recent studies indicate that:
- 66% of women suffer from some level of urinary incontinence
- 20% of women stop working out to avoid unexpected leaks
- 33% of women between the ages of 45 and 50 avoid physical exertion altogether to prevent embarrassing leaks
- 80% of women report being depressed because of their incontinence
It’s no surprise that women suffering from urinary incontinence report feeling less attractive, and cutting back on beneficial exercise does little to boost self-esteem. As a result, incontinent women may feel less sexual desire and engage in less sexual activity, further reducing their self-esteem—a truly vicious circle of negativity.
In addition to the mental and physical impact, the financial statistics surrounding urinary incontinence in women are also substantial—an estimated $19.5 billion per year in the US alone. And it’s not just the sanitary napkins, incontinence pads, medications, laundry, and dry cleaning that make bladder problems so expensive.
The urinary incontinence in women statistics displays the ripple effects this issue can cause different areas of life. Up to 23% of women report taking time off work due to urinary incontinence. This loss of income does little to improve a woman’s already low self-esteem, making urinary incontinence in women a real societal and fiscal concern.
Common Causes of Bladder Problems in Women
There are several different types of urinary incontinence in women (lucky us):
- Coital: Yep, some women inadvertently release urine during sex
- Postural: Leaks that occur when standing up or bending over
- Nocturnal: Loss of bladder control while sleeping
- Stress: Leaking while coughing, laughing, sneezing, or exercising
- Urgency: Overactive bladder syndrome and the like
To understand the causes of urinary incontinence in women, let’s have a quick anatomy lesson.
The bladder sits in a hammock-like sling of pelvic floor muscles, and there are two urinary sphincters that keep the urine in the bladder until it is time to void. Pressure from the tissue surrounding the vagina also helps keep the urethra closed and urine safely contained in the bladder during increased abdominal pressure—laughing, coughing, sneezing, and such.
Bladder awareness and control are maintained through a complicated series of muscular and neurological mechanisms. Damage and/or changes to the muscles of the bladder, the muscles surrounding the bladder, and neurological deficits and disease are considered the primary causes of urinary incontinence in women (and in men, who also suffer from incontinence but to a lesser degree).
Stress and urinary are the most common types of incontinence, often appearing at the same time. Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles supporting the bladder and urethra weaken, shifting the bladder downward and moving the urethra out of its normal position. Without the added support of the vaginal tissue, the pressure inside the urethra decreases compared as the pressure inside the bladder increases, resulting in those pesky and unexpected leaks.
Urgency incontinence is more strongly associated with physiologic changes to the bladder muscles. Certain muscles can overreact as the bladder fills, giving a false sense of urgency.
Overactive bladder occurs when the cells lining the bladder become hypersensitive to the presence of urine. Both are malfunctions that occur at the cellular level of the bladder and surrounding tissues, making urinary control difficult.
Treatment Options for Bladder Leaks
Urinary incontinence in women treatment comes in many forms. These include:
- Fluid intake management
- Weight loss
- Incontinence supplies
- Pessaries and other internal support devices
- Pelvic floor muscle training
Reducing fluid intake and losing excess weight can resolve incontinence issues for some women, but this is dangerous as too many women will suffer dehydration, supportive pessaries can work for others, and incontinence supplies do work as a last resort. However, the best treatment for urinary incontinence for most women, especially younger, more physically and sexually active women, is strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) has been shown to be the most effective treatment for stress incontinence. That muscular sling that the bladder sits in loses tone over time, but like any other muscle, it can be trained back into shape, moving the bladder back into its proper position and helping keep the urinary sphincter tightly closed.
The ever-popular kegel exercises have been prescribed to women for years to maintain tone of key pelvic floor muscles. Still, effective pelvic floor muscle training requires much more than just a few random “down there” squeezes per day, and most women perform the requisite exercises incorrectly by:
- Squeezing the wrong muscles
- Not squeezing properly or long enough
So how do you perform pelvic floor exercises properly? Using vaginal weights can make it easier to identify the right muscles to squeeze. Several studies have been done documenting the positive impact vaginal weights on women with stress incontinence. There are multiple vaginal weight options on the market, ranging from yoni eggs to ben-wa balls to electronic biofeedback sensors. But most are unsanitary, uncomfortable, or just plain unsafe to use.
The Kegelbell system takes the guesswork out of pelvic floor muscle training. The easy-clean silicone insert sits just inside the vagina, allowing you to target exactly the right muscles. Women with little pelvic muscle tone can start with just the lubricated insert, squeezing just enough to keep it in place. As tone improves, external weights can be added for multiple strengthening options. With just five minutes a day, three times a week, most women see a change in muscle tone and a reduction in those annoying leaks in as little as two to three weeks.
Say Goodbye to Leaks with a Modern Solution
So, is urinary incontinence a normal part of aging that we have no choice but to live with? Not at all! Urinary incontinence does NOT have to be a normal consequence of aging, and you do NOT need to accept your incontinence the way your grandmother did. This is the twenty-first century, after all, and there are many treatment options available to you.
Making pelvic floor exercises part of your normal exercise regimen can have multiple benefits, and Kegelbell makes it easy to target the correct muscles. Our silicone insert allows you to feel exactly which muscles to tighten, and our series of external weights provides an extra challenge to strengthen your muscles.
So kick that lavender cardigan to the curb and get out of that rocking chair! Take control of your pelvic health and stop urinary leaks with the pelvic floor muscle training kit from Kegelbell.