They may be family -- but having an incontinence accident while staying in another person's home can be awkward and embarrassing. How do you explain the wet sheets? How can you dispose of used incontinence pads? Is incontinence keeping you from visiting friends and family?
"One of my patients was afraid she would wet the bed," says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "She stopped sleeping at her daughter's house because of it...
You're jogging along, feeling great -- and then you realize your running
shorts are damp with urine. Later that night, during a romantic rendezvous with
your partner, a trickle of urine appears again, definitely spoiling the
Lest you think stress urinary incontinence is a problem only of middle-aged
or elderly women, think again. Surprisingly, young women actually have more
stress incontinence during sex than older women, according to Amy Rosenman, MD,
a gynecologist at Santa Monica -- UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, Calif.,
and co-author of The Incontinence Solution.
When incontinence occurs during intimate moments, women feel anxious,
Rosenman says, even if they are in stable marriages. This could even lead to sexual
The same anxiety can occur during a workout, where you may end up with an
embarrassing wet spot on your pants for the world to see.
Stress Incontinence Due to Weak Pelvic Floor Muscles
The problem, whether the stress incontinence occurs during exercise or sex,
has a common denominator, says Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN, professor emerita at
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and a sexuality researcher.
"Stress incontinence is related to the strength of the pelvic floor
muscles," Whipple says. The weaker those muscles are, the more likely you are
to have symptoms of stress incontinence -- leaking urine during physical
activity, such as exercise, sex, sneezing, laughing or jumping--in the absence of bladder
While many women experience minor leakage from time to time, at any age, if
it becomes more frequent or interferes with your normal routine, you should
tell your doctor. There is an array of very effective treatments for stress
incontinence. Stress urinary
incontinence is the most common cause of urinary incontinence in younger women
and the second most common cause in older women.
If you have had several pregnancies and childbirths, your pelvic muscles and
tissues may have gotten stretched and damaged. With age, the muscles can
weaken, too, although stress incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging.
Excess weight can also weaken pelvic floor muscles and cause stress
Kegels Can Help Stress Incontinence
Strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor is crucial, experts agree.
One recommended way to do that is through Kegel exercises, according to the
American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
First, some anatomy: at the bottom of the pelvis, many muscle layers stretch
between your legs, attaching to the pelvic bones at the front, back and sides.
If you think of the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine, those are
the ones you will be targeting when doing your Kegels.
The how-to's: Pull in or squeeze the muscles, pretending you are trying to
stop urine flow. You should hold that squeeze for about 10 seconds. Follow that
by a 10-second rest. How many? Try three to four sets of 10 squeezes a day,
recommends the AAFP.