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What Causes Urinary Incontinence?7 min read



Melanie Schwarz is a registered nurse who works closely with each of our patients to provide the quality treatment they deserve for optimal results.

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Jenna is having lunch with her friends, listening to one of them talk about how their 6 year old got caught painting on the living room wall. It’s a funny story, and when her friend mimics her child’s voice, Jenna laughs. That’s what it happens. Jenna leaks, slightly wetting her panties. Jenna’s enjoyable lunch is suddenly uncomfortable. She squirms, her face becoming red with embarrassment as she tries to appear normal. She excuses herself to the bathroom. 

Jenna’s story is not unusual. 1 in 4 women suffer from persistent urinary incontinence over the age of 18. As if periods wasn’t enough, having to carry around extra pads, constantly use the restroom, and overthink bladder control is a struggle a lot of women face. 

What is urinary incontinence? What causes it? Is it treatable? Read below to learn more!

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is difficulty controlling the bladder, resulting in urine leakage. There are multiple types of ways to classify urinary incontinence:

  • Stress incontinence: This type of urinary incontinence is one of the most common. Similar to Jenna’s case, stress incontinence usually manifests itself as leakage when pressure is applied on the bladder through coughing, sneezing, exercising, lifting, and — yes, laughing. 
  • Overflow incontinence: This type of incontinence entails constant dripping, dribbling, and leakage of urine even after using the toilet, sometimes throughout the day. 
  • Urge incontinence: This type of incontinence involves feeling the sudden urge to urinate — then losing bladder control and leaking. This often results in feeling the need to use the bathroom very frequently. 
  • Functional incontinence: This type of incontinence involves another medical or mental factor inhibiting the ability to properly urinate. This could include not being physically able to make it to the bathroom in time due to a disability. 
  • Mixed incontinence: A mixture of the different types of incontinence. 

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

While there are many reasons why someone may be experiencing urinary incontinence (including medical side effects, neurological disorders, weight gain, infection, etc.) the two most common reasons why women struggle with urinary incontinence is from childbirth and menopause.

Urinary incontinence happens when A) too much pressure is applied on the bladder, B) pelvic muscles/nerves are weakened. Giving birth can weaken the pelvic muscles, disturb nerves, and loosen the vaginal area, causing urinary incontinence after childbirth. As all aging women know, menopause does many wacky things to the body, and weakening the pelvic area and hormonally changing the vaginal area are two of the common side effects.

It is important to remember that urinary incontinence is not an illness or disorder, but a side effect or result of another problem (such as post-childbirth). This is why it is important to talk with your doctor about what is causing your urinary incontinence, as pinpointing the reason will help diagnose what the appropriate treatment should be.

Read below for an FAQ on urinary incontinence! 

Yes, a bladder infection can be the cause of your urinary incontinence and/or frequent urge to urinate. Urinary continence caused by bladder infection can be easily  treated with antibiotics.

 Yes, neurological disorders can contribute to urinary incontinence. 39% of patients with epilepsy had urinary struggles, urinary continence being the most common. If you would like to read more about seizures, neurological disorders, and urinary incontinence, click here.

If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence during any type of cancer treatment/chemotherapy/radiation, talk to your doctor. There can be various reasons as to why urinary incontinence may be a symptom during cancer treatment/chemo, from as simple as not drinking enough water to as challenging as kidney/bladder irritation.  

Either medication does have urinary incontinence as a side effect. If you are experiencing urinary incontinence while taking either of these drugs, talk with your doctor.

Due to excessive body weight, pressure can be put on the abdomen and bladder which can cause urinary incontinence. Excessive weight can also weaken the pelvic muscles, contributing to incontinence.  

Having a catheter can contribute to urinary problems, including incontinence from weakened pelvic muscles. Talk to your doctor about whether a catheter is the direct cause of your incontinence. 

Bladder endometriosis can manifest itself in various symptoms, including urinary incontinence. Pain, consistent discomfort, and burning often accompany urinary incontinence caused by endometriosis. 

Women who have a cystocele can experience increased pressure onto the bladder, causing urinary incontinence. Talk to your doctor about how to treat urinary incontinence with a cystocele, as treatment varies depending on the intensity of the problem.

While urinary incontinence is not caused directly by sex, women who experience urinary incontinence during or after sexual intercourse can often attribute this problem to either a bladder infection or weak pelvic muscles. Since sex adds pressure onto the bladder, weak pelvic muscles will not be able to hold urine in. Kegel excercises and/or vaginal rejuvenation treatments can mend this problem.

How to Treat Urinary Incontinence after Childbirth/During Menopause?

Kegel Exercises

Fortunately, urinary incontinence as a result of childbirth and menopause can be treated easily and effectively! Kegel exercises are one of the most popular ways to help strengthen pelvic muscles and gain better bladder control. Because pelvic muscles support the uterus, bladder, rectum, and small intestine, stronger pelvic muscles are effective in helping with incontinence. Kegel exercises are effective when done consistently, and are recommended to be done daily. They are low impact exercises that are often just clench-and-release. There are many Kegel tutorials on YouTube and online that are accessible, easy-to-follow, and fun.

Kegel Exercises

In addition to Kegel, and increasingly popular and effective treatment for urinary incontinence is the DiVa Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation. DiVa uses Hybrid Fractional Laser (HFL) technology to target and strengthen the vaginal walls and replace them with stronger, tighter, and more robust lining. The procedure takes under 10 minutes to perform, is minimally invasive, and has an 80-90% success rate among women. Depending on the woman, 1-3 procedures is generally recommended. By strengthening the vaginal walls, it is much easier to control urine and urinary urges. If you’re struggling with urinary incontinence, DiVa is a great option to efficiently and effectively help solve your incontinence! 

Not only does DiVa use laser treatments to safely and successfully help solve urinary incontinence in women, but it also helps improve sexual function and vaginal dryness. By strengthening the walls with new, healthy, stronger lining, the vaginal canal is rejuvenated.  

After DiVa and consistent Kegel exercises, Jenna can now enjoy her lunch dates and laugh as much as she’d like without a care in the world. There are so many success stories like Jenna — and your success story can be next!

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Are You Ready to Find Out More?

If you’re ready to explore DiVa for your urinary incontinence, we invite you to simply come in for a complimentary consultation with Dr. Chang or one of the cosmetic laser and injection nurses to explore whether you would make a good candidate. To find out more whether Aesthetica can help you, contact us online or at 703-729-5553 to arrange an appointment. Dr. Phillip Chang is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Northern Virginia near Leesburg, Virginia and an expert in a wide variety of cosmetic treatments.

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