All about stress urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary release of urine, often due to a loss of bladder control. The pelvic floor and bladder muscles hold the bladder in place. When the bladder fills, the brain sends signals to the muscles to contract and expel the urine. If the muscles are too weak, urine can escape with a cough, sneeze, lifting, or physical exercise. This is known as stress incontinence. Some people with stress incontinence will also have an overactive bladder, or needing to go to the bathroom frequently.
Speaking with your OB/GYN
Some leakage can happen occasionally. However, if the urinary incontinence is affecting daily life, see an OB/GYN. The doctor will provide some counseling and also a physical assessment. Women are more likely to experience stress incontinence due to changes in the body. Common reasons include weight gain, pregnancy, menopause, and a hysterectomy. Leaking urine while sneezing is treatable, and there are a few options that can help.
Providing physical therapy
The pelvic floor muscles influence the bladder, and strengthening these muscles can improve incontinence. The OB/GYN can recommend a physical therapist to help identify and strengthen the bladder muscles. These same exercises, like Kegels, can be done at home.
Try some biofeedback
Biofeedback is a popular therapy that uses sensors to measure how the body responds to subtle changes. Biofeedback can help tell a patient what’s causing the reduced pelvic floor control. The sensors connect to the pelvic floor area, which is then connected to a machine that provides data points. These data points show how the pelvic floor is being used when the muscles are engaged and creates more mindfulness. Over several sessions with physical therapy, women can better control and exercise the muscles. Studies show a significant improvement in pelvic floor strength with biofeedback.
Pessaries are a viable option
An OB/GYN can provide a special device called a vaginal pessary. The device looks like a diaphragm and sits in the vagina to help reduce urine loss. By subtly moving the urethra, the pessary prevents leakage. The doctor will advise the patient on how to use and maintain the device.
Surgery as a last resort
The OB/GYN or surgeon can try some minimally invasive procedures to help with urethra control. Urethra bulking is one of the more common procedures available for women. The OB/GYN or surgeon injects a bulking substance to thicken the urethra wall. Other forms of treatment include inserting an indwelling catheter or a nerve stimulator. The procedure will be based on availability and the severity of the urinary leakage.
Get the right treatment for you
Seeking help for stress urinary incontinence is important. Not only is the condition physically distressing, but there are also emotional consequences. Avoiding the condition is not the solution. Speak with an OB/GYN right away. After an assessment, the doctor can put together a plan to make sneezing a bit more comfortable.