Many women will experience loss of bladder control (incontinence) over the course of their lifetime, and are twice as likely as men to experience it! Outside of its physical effects, bladder leakage can also induce frustration and embarrassment in sufferers. It can benefit women of all ages to learn about incontinence issues and how to help manage them - not to mention, also disempowering any stigma around this common condition through preparation and open communication.
While there are a variety of conditions that can impact the bladder, the most common symptoms of incontinence include discomfort, sense of urgency, and loss of bladder control to some degree. Factors that can increase the likelihood of bladder issues include aging, menopause, and having given birth and/or been pregnant.
Urinary incontinence is divided into a few different types depending on how it presents:
Bladder leakage is classified as stress incontinence when urinary leakage occurs due to the physical pressure of strenuous or sudden activity, such as laughter, sneezing, coughing, standing suddenly, exercise, and sexual activity. Pelvic floor muscles support both the bladder and the urethra, so conditions that can weaken them such as pregnancy and childbirth, or a chronic cough, can be factors in developing stress incontinence. Although aging and menopause can also contribute to developing stress incontinence, younger women can experience it as well!
Urge incontinence, also known as “overactive bladder,” can present as feeling the need to urinate unusually frequently, or having the urge to pee very suddenly, desperately followed by losing control of your bladder. Unlike stress incontinence, urge incontinence may be caused by neurological factors and can even be triggered by the sound or sight of running water or pouring liquids, and is a common experience for aging and menopausal women. It can also occur due to infections in the bladder such as cystitis, but can also be part of the range of symptoms of more serious conditions such as a trauma to the nervous system from a spinal cord injury, a stroke, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis.
Like its descriptive name, overflow incontinence refers to a frequent pattern of urinary leakage because the muscles around the bladder don’t squeeze it firmly enough to completely empty during urination, and can also cause difficulty urinating freely. Most often experienced by aging adults, overflow incontinence is actually more likely to affect men. Factors in the development of overflow incontinence can include an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and conditions affecting the nervous system such as Parkinson’s and MS.
As its name suggests, mixed incontinence is when you experience more than one type of urinary incontinence, possibly as comorbidities of a separate condition.
How can you manage bladder issues naturally?
The wide range of causes and severity of bladder issues means that there aren’t always easy answers. Some people may be able to treat their issues easily and move on, while for others, it might acutely impact their routine and emotional wellbeing. It is always best to discuss any new symptoms or experiences with a trusted medical practitioner to make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of your health! However, there are some steps you can take to be proactive:
Pelvic floor training exercises
also known as kegel exercises, pelvic floor training is easy to add to your daily routine since you can do a rep discreetly just about anywhere! Your pelvic floor is a significant muscular support for your bladder, so strengthening it - especially if you are postpartum, menopausal, or experiencing continuing bladder issues - is a great ongoing practice.
Healthy lifestyle choices
while simply eating a wholesome veggie-packed diet and getting regular physical activity isn’t going to fix your bladder issues on their own, prioritizing your health through your daily routines can improve your overall resilience. Important considerations include limiting alcohol and caffeine intake - caffeine can have a diuretic effect, increasing the sense of needing to urinate. Extra body weight puts more pressure on your bladder, and smoking cigarettes - besides their overall health risks - increases the likelihood of chronic coughing, which can cause stress leakage as well. Eating lots of high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods and keeping your body fit and flexible will put you in the best position for improving the impact of your bladder concerns.
Controlling fluid intake
especially if you’re scheduling yourself to be out of the house or away from the bathroom for a while, you may wish to reduce the volume of fluids you consume. You should never take this to the point of dehydration, but if you experience bladder control issues, perhaps 10 pm before bed isn’t the right time to drink a large cup of tea! Likewise, maybe bring a water bottle with you to sip on intermittently instead of drinking a large glass right before heading to the grocery store.
something you can try at home is bladder training for improving your urination habits. Train yourself by going to the bathroom at set times and slowly increasing the duration between your scheduled visits. You can also try ‘double urinating’ when you have to go by waiting just ten minutes in between voiding. You may also try delaying urinating by a couple of minutes when you feel the urge. If you are developing a treatment plan with a medical professional, be sure to get their recommendations for bladder training options - and remember, don’t push yourself to the point of discomfort or accidents.
Supplementing for bladder control support
another option for managing bladder issues is supplementation with traditional herbal remedies. Herbs such as cornsilk, horsetail, and the proprietary Urox herbal blend have long been used to support and even help reduce overactive bladder and leakage. If you’re looking for a natural option to improve your bladder issues, it’s absolutely worth considering a supplement specifically formulated to support women experiencing bladder concerns, including discomfort and leakage.