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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

Incontinence: A Woman's Little Secret

If you think urinary incontinence only affects older women, think again. Bladder control issues affect younger, active women, too -- are you one of them?
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WebMD Feature

Often, it starts after the baby's born: You head to aerobics class, ready to shed those extra pounds, and in the middle of the workout...an accident.

This embarrassing little problem is urinary incontinence, and lots of women -- regardless of age -- are secretly dealing with it. More than 13 million Americans have incontinence, and women are twice as likely to have it as men, according the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. About 25% to 45% of women suffer from urinary incontinence, defined as leakage at least once in the past year. The rates of urinary incontinence increase with age: 20%-30% of young women , 30%-40% of middle-aged women, and up to 50% of older women suffer from urinary incontinence.

"It's embarrassing, and it can really affect your quality of life - your emotional state, body image, sexuality," says Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, professor of female pelvic medicine at Loyal University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Yet many put up with incontinence needlessly, Brubaker tells WebMD. "People don't realize it's a medical condition, and that there's help. Many women think it's normal, part of having children or going into menopause."

Though incontinence is "more common than you might think," it's not normal says Brubaker, who sees teens, and women in their 20s, 30s, or older with this issue. "You don't have to put up with it. There are often simple solutions that work."

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