Incontinence
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  • Health
  • 17.02.22

Living with incontinence – what every woman needs to know

Firstly, if you suffer from light bladder leakage (LBL) or incontinence, we want you to know that you’re not alone. Many women experience incontinence at different times of their lives. Even though you may feel embarrassed and self conscious, urinary incontinence is more common than you think.

Of all the people who report living with incontinence, 80% are women.

To help you learn more about incontinence, here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control, which can lead to urine leakage. There are four main types of incontinence, stress, urge, overflow and functional.

Stress incontinence – This is the most common type of incontinence and is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. It’s prompted by an action such as coughing or sneezing, causing light bladder leakage.

Urge incontinence – Urge incontinence is also described as an overactive bladder. The bladder is a muscle, contracting when it’s full. However, when you have an overactive bladder it will contract before it’s full, meaning you will have to go to the bathroom more often and sometimes find it hard to hold on.

Urinary retention – This is when your bladder is too full and can occur when your bladder isn’t able to contract fully or there is a blockage in your urethra. It’s a rare condition causing the bladder to overflow and urine to leak out through the urethra.

Functional incontinence – Functional incontinence inhibits the ability to go to the bathroom and is experienced by people who have a physical disability or communication issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease.

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What causes female incontinence?

Many women experience incontinence after having children or during/after menopause. The changes your body undergoes through pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, making it more likely you’ll experience stress incontinence.

Other factors causing incontinence may include:

  • age – if you’re over 65 years
  • a medical condition such as dementia or motor neurone disease
  • a condition affecting your brain’s ability to send messages, such as a stroke, Parkinson’s disease or MS)
  • prolapse that puts pressure on your bladder
  • poor bladder habits
  • medications
  • constipation
  • vascular disease
  • obesity
  • urinary tract infections

How do you manage incontinence?

How you manage incontinence will depend on your individual condition and what type of incontinence you are suffering from. You’ll need to work with your doctor or gynaecologist to decide on a treatment plan.

There are certain things you can do for yourself from home, including:

  • reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet to avoid constipation and straining during bowel movements
  • weight loss
  • strengthening your bladder by delaying time between urination
  • strengthening your pelvic floor muscles with exercise

The importance of strengthening your pelvic floor muscles

One in three women who have had a child will experience some level of incontinence during their life, caused by weak pelvic floor muscles.

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles will help support your uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Our Grace Private physiotherapists can assist with exercises to help you in this area.

What should you do if you’re experiencing prolonged incontinence?

The first step is to visit your GP. You’ll need to answer a few questions about your incontinence then the doctor may conduct a few tests, such as bladder stress tests (coughing/pressure on bladder), ultrasounds or urine tests.

You may also be asked to keep a bladder diary to record your bladder leaks and hopefully give you a better understanding of the triggers. You can ask to be referred to a specialist, such as our Grace gynaecologists who can assist with incontinence and prolapse and offer onsite urodynamics testing and consultations in our Grace rooms.

If your condition is related to weak pelvic floor muscles, a referral to see one of Grace’s experienced physiotherapists, Rebecca Lackie or Debra Miller could be helpful. They will take a holistic approach to your health to manage your incontinence problem by prescribing exercises to help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

Both Rebecca and Debra have extensive experience dealing with women who have pelvic floor concerns, with Rebecca Lackie recently awarded the Title of Continence and Women’s Health Physiotherapist by the Australian Physiotherapy Association. This APA Physiotherapist Title is a measure of career progress following a rigorous examination process by industry leaders.

Are there any medicines or surgical options to treat incontinence?

There are some procedures and medicines which may be used to treat incontinence, however the treatment or medicine prescribed will depend on your individual condition. We’d recommend you speak with your GP and ask for a referral to see one of our Grace specialists.

Grace Private is a specialist practice that was designed by women, or women. With our collaborative approach and extensive team we’re here to help you live your best life.

To book an appointment with a Grace specialist, ask for ‘Grace’ next time you visit your GP. Referrals are not required for appointments with our Grace physiotherapists.