The bladder and urethra are surrounded by muscles that can control urine flow and prevent unwanted leakage. During pregnancy, pressure on the bladder by the baby causes stress incontinence. The pelvic floor, surrounding nerves, and tissues can get further damaged during childbirth. These muscles and ligaments hold the bladder and urethra in place. Stress incontinence can also happen due to menopause, a naturally weak pelvic floor, or previous surgery.
Checking for stress incontinence
The only symptom is involuntary leakage after coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Other activities like running, sex, or exercise can cause an unwanted slip. The degree of incontinence and the force exerted to cause leakage varies. Some women feel embarrassed about the leakage and choose to keep the issue private. However, telling a doctor is the first step for treatment. The doctor will support and reassure the patient, as the problem happens to many women. The doctor can then use different ways to assess the extent of the condition. Checks include a physical exam, bladder scan, and urinalysis. The doctor will also check for pelvic prolapse or bladder infections. From there, both the patient and doctor develop a treatment game plan.
The first step? Getting stronger
In almost all cases, physical therapy is an effective non-surgical treatment option. The goal is to strengthen the pelvic floor. This, in turn, prevents excess leakage. The doctor will suggest lifestyle changes like weight loss, smoking, and alcohol reduction. These can improve overall health, including a healthier bladder. This will take time to see the improvement, so the doctor may include other treatment options.
Helpful tools of the trade
Some medical devices can help with stress incontinence. An incontinence pessary, for instance, is a small ring-like device to support the urethra. A doctor will need to insert the pessary, which will push against the urethra, preventing leakage. While this may be effective, there is a chance the device can move out of place. There are other single-use incontinence devices on the market. These over-the-counter devices work similarly to a tampon. The inserts are temporary, and should not be used for more than 8 hours. Women can rely on these inserts for short amounts of time, such as during a workout.
Turning to surgery
There are a few surgical options to prevent excess leakage. Choosing the correct surgical procedure depends on the degree of incontinence. A sling procedure is the most common type performed. The surgery takes a graft of tissue or synthetic tape to create a sling to reinforce the urethra. A colposuspension surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that uses surrounding tissue to support the bladder. The doctor uses a laparoscope to attach some of the vaginal tissue to surrounding ligaments. Surgery raises the bladder, potentially preventing leakage. Other surgical procedures include bulking injections. Some methods have higher success rates than others. The doctor will explain the most effective surgery available.
Stop incontinence in its tracks
Childbirth is an amazing, life-changing experience. However, the process can weaken or damage the muscles that control the bladder and urethra. Stress incontinence can hamper the quality of life. Speak with a doctor for an in-depth analysis of the bladder, pelvic muscles, and urethra. With help, women can enjoy activities without the stress of incontinence.