woman laughing with bladder leaks
Incontinence

Incontinence 101: Everything You Need To Know

As women, our bodies go through the ringer. Monthly periods. Pregnancy. Childbirth. Menopause. From all that activity, it’s no surprise that our pelvic floor takes a hit. Our muscles and nerves fatigue from all of the work they do and get stressed under pressure. This can cause bladder leakage, otherwise known as urinary incontinence.

While leaks can be frustrating, there are lots of techniques that can help make them no big deal. Here’s everything you need to know about those spritz, sprinkles, and urges and how to manage them. And we really do mean everything!

Table of Contents

What Is The Definition Of Incontinence Exactly?

The technical term for bladder leakage is urinary incontinence. It happens when there are issues with the muscles and nerves that help your bladder function. These issues can increase how frequently you run to the bathroom and your ability to control when you pee.

Symptoms Of Incontinence

If one or more of these things sounds familiar, you may be one of many women dealing with incontinence:

  • Bladder leakage when you cough, sneeze, or exercise.
  • The strong urge to pee.
  • Frequent bathroom trips.
  • Getting up twice or more in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

Who Gets Bladder Leakage?

If you’ve got a bladder, then you’re susceptible to incontinence. Especially if you’re a woman. Over 45% of the female population deals with drips and dribbles at some point in their lives. While the number of women affected increases with age, especially during menopause, incontinence is common during other times too. (And regardless of when the leaks kick in, there are great bladder leak pads — like those from Lily Bird — to make sure leaks don’t slow you down.)

Pregnant and postpartum women are at risk of experiencing the occasional spritz and sprinkles due to physical and hormonal changes. And if that wasn’t enough, there are certain times during your monthly menstrual cycle where you’re more likely to have leaks too. Basically hormones and urine leaks have a lot to do with each other.

So, fellas, consider yourself lucky! While men can get bladder leakage too, twice as many women experience it.

Time For An Anatomy Lesson

What’s something you walk around with everyday that protects your vagina, large and small intestines, uterus, and your bladder? If you guessed your six pack abs, then try again!

It actually happens to be your pelvic floor!

What’s The Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor includes the muscles, ligaments, connective tissues, and nerves needed to cradle all those important organs in the lower abdomen (intestines, uterus, vagina, and bladder). You didn’t think they were just floating around, did you?

The Role Of The Pelvic Floor

When all is functioning well, the pelvic floor muscles relax anytime you need to pee or poop. However, if the pelvic floor is weak or irritated, things can be a little challenging. For instance, pelvic floor dysfunction can cause the following symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Pelvic muscle spasms
  • An increased need or urge to urinate
  • Painful sex for women and,
  • Unexplainable back pain

Understanding Your Bladder

Before we jump into how a weakened pelvic floor can affect the bladder, it’s best to understand the role of your bladder. You’re probably thinking, “well doesn’t it just hold my pee?”

Sure, but its role is quite important!

Your bladder is a muscular sac and it sits right above and behind the pubic bone. After the kidneys create your urine, it travels down to the bladder which stores and controls it. The bladder is a flexible muscle, allowing itself to expand as urine goes into it. A normal bladder can hold about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of urine at a time but it starts to say, “Hey! It’s time to go!” around 1/2 cup.

Once signaled, a normal bladder will release pee through the urethra and out of the body. Think of the urethra as a tube. It sits between the vagina and clitoris in women.

A Weak Pelvic Floor Leads To Urine Leaks

Now that you understand the roles of your pelvic floor and bladder, can you see how an issue with one would affect the other? If surgery, childbirth, excess weight, or constipation stresses your pelvic floor, it’s likely to interfere with the function of your bladder.

What’s Normal When It Comes To Peeing?

If you had to guess, how many times per day would you say is normal for peeing? On average, most people pee about six to eight times per day. However, if you drink a lot of water or take certain types of medication, you might go as many as ten times in a day. Diuretics, also known as water pills, will have you running to the bathroom like a race horse, for example.

Other factors that may influence how often you pee are your age, bladder size, and the types of fluid you consume. Drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages will definitely increase your production of urine!

Happy woman with bladder leakage laughing on the beach

What Causes Incontinence In Women?

From pregnancy to a super intense SoulCycle class, there are lots of things that could be contributing to your leaks. These are some of the common causes of bladder leakage in women:

Certain Activities

Did you know that activities like heavy lifting, laughing, sneezing, coughing, and exercising can put abdominal pressure on the bladder and cause leaks? Bummer. This loss of bladder control is sometimes a result of physical changes from pregnancy or childbirth or hormonal changes that occur during menstruation and menopause. When your pelvic floor or bladder muscles are weak, activities like laughing and coughing more easily causes leaks.

Pelvic Prolapse

Pelvic prolapse occurs when the muscles supporting organs like the bladder become weakened or loose. As a result, the bladder (or another pelvic organ) may begin to droop into the vagina.

Women that sometimes leak when laughing or that get the sudden urge to use the restroom may be suffering from pelvic prolapse. The stress and strain on a weakened pelvic floor and the lack of support for the bladder triggers the occasional spritz and the sudden urge to go even when the bladder is hardly full.

Hysterectomy

It’s not uncommon for women to experience incontinence following a vaginal hysterectomy. Sometimes the sphincter, which keeps the urethra closed, loses its ability to function normally and spazzes out. Another reason for incontinence after a hysterectomy is the sudden change to the pelvic floor muscles.

Hormonal Changes During Menopause

The hormonal changes that occur during menopause cause some women to experience incontinence. As if we didn’t have enough going on, right!? During menopause, estrogen levels start to decline, which ultimately decreases the strength and elasticity of our pelvic floor ligaments. Estrogen helps muscles like the pelvic floor maintain strength and flexibility due to its aid in collagen synthesis and elastin production.

Pregnancy & Childbirth

Did you know that 71% of expecting mothers have bladder leakage during pregnancy? Incontinence becomes an issue due to changes to the pelvic floor. In addition, a growing baby is sitting on the bladder, so it’s easy for leaks to sneak out when you laugh, sneeze, or cough. The baby has to sit on something, so why not rock back and forth like a rocking chair on the bladder, right?! Thanks, baby. And thanks goodness for Lily Bird.

Urine leaks are also common after giving birth. Labor puts pressure on the pelvic floor during labor which can weaken or damage it.

Medications

We previously mentioned how diuretics can increase your flow of urine, but there are other medications that cause urinary incontinence too.

Some antidepressants interfere with the bladder’s ability to contract, which can cause overflow incontinence. Overflow incontinence occurs when you’re unable to completely empty the bladder. Antidepressants may also decreases one’s ability to recognize when they need to go to the bathroom.

Alpha blockers, which are typically used to treat individuals with high blood pressure, may also cause incontinence. Alpha blockers naturally relax the bladder neck and cause urine to flow more freely.

While only a few people with incontinence actually wet the bed, those who take sleeping pills are at a greater risk of doing so. When you’re counting sheep in your sleep, it’s kind of difficult to think about how full your bladder is, right?

Obesity

Individuals that are obese or overweight are at a greater risk of developing urinary incontinence. The excess weight places added pressure on the pelvic floor, which increases leaks and the urge to go.

Your Diet

Did you that certain foods and beverages can irritate the bladder? Well, it’s true. What we consume absolutely impacts how our bladder functions, so it’s important to limit these bladder irritants:

  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Sodium
  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods
  • Processed food
  • Acidic foods
  • Smoked meats
  • And more!

Those are just a few of the most common bladder irritants.

Constipation

Being stopped up sucks. On one end you can’t push anything out and the other end has no hesitation getting things moving. The pressure on your pelvic floor muscles increases how frequently you need to pee in an effort to reduce the pressure on the bowels. In addition, straining during a bowel movement can weaken your pelvic floor, which increases the likelihood of leaks.

Nerve Damage

If you’ve experienced nerve damage from childbirth, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or another condition, these things can affect the nerve function in your bladder, urethra, and pelvic floor. As a result, it could increase one’s chance of experiencing bladder incontinence.

Surgery

Undergoing anesthesia and having certain types of operations can affect your bladder as well. For instance, surgery may cause temporary nerve issues that decrease the sensation you get when you have to go. Swelling, which is common after surgery, can also impact one’s ability to urinate, in addition to urine remaining in the bladder after using it. The latter can actually stretch and irritate the bladder, thus causing issues with incontinence.

Infections

Infections of the bladder, urinary tract, or reproductive system like UTIs, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections may cause…drumroll please…incontinence. However, in most cases, treating the infection typically takes care of the bladder leakage too.

Obstructions

Obstructions like kidney stones can also cause issues with incontinence.These hard masses form in your kidney and pass through pelvic floor, which can weaken it. Even smaller kidney stones that don’t cause pain can cause urinary leakage or increase how often you urinate.

hiking with incontinence

Common Types Of Incontinence

The two main types of incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence. These two terms are just fancy words for bladder leakage. But people sometimes say ‘incontinence’ to describe accidental bowel leakage, too. Bowel incontinence most often occurs in older adults, but like urinary leaks, it can interfere with one’s daily life.

Stress Incontinence

Earlier we described how some individuals leak after sneezing, coughing, laughing, or doing other types of physical activities. This is known as stress incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when stress or pressure is put on the bladder, making the muscles work harder to function.

What Causes Stress Incontinence?

There a number of things that can weaken your bladder and cause stress incontinence. For instance, if you’re pregnant, have given birth multiple times, delivered a large baby, or are experiencing menopause, then you’re at risk of stress incontinence. Physical and hormonal changes can alter the pelvic floor muscles and make it difficult to keep the urethral sphincter closed.

The challenging thing about stress incontinence is that initially you don’t expect it. There are usually no signs that you have to urinate and your bladder doesn’t feel full.

Symptoms of Stress Incontinence

Have you ever laughed and unexpectedly peed at the same time? If yes, then that’s a sign of stress incontinence. The main symptom associated with this type of urinary incontinence is that spritz and drips occur during times of physical activity.

Urge Incontinence

Have you ever had the strong urge to urinate even though your bladder isn’t full? This annoying feeling is known as ‘urge incontinence’ and it’s often associated with overactive bladder (OAB).

It’s normal to go to the bathroom 6-8 times per day, but someone with urge incontinence may go to the restroom much more than this. One moment you’re feeling just fine and the next there’s this strong urge to go right now.

Typically when we get the sensation that we’ve got to go we have some time to finish up what we’re doing. However, with urge incontinence, the urge is so sudden that it’s difficult to get to the bathroom on time. As a result, it’s not uncommon for a few leaks to occur before you actually make it to the bathroom. On top of that, many women find that once they get to the bathroom, only a few drops come out!

Causes And Triggers Of Urinary Incontinence

A bunch of nerves controls our bladder and when these nerves aren’t functioning properly, sometimes the result is urge incontinence. Sometimes the nerves trigger the “GOTTA GO” response when the bladder is only half full. Then there are other times when the bladder is completely full but the nerves trigger the response too late. The result? Bladder spasms and leaks. The muscles and nerves have to work in sync in order to function properly and avoid bladder incontinence.

Diet and lifestyle can trigger overactive bladder and urge incontinence, like we mentioned earlier. In addition, hearing or seeing running water and simply arriving home can trigger the urge to go.

Symptoms of Urge Incontinence

You know those “gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now” commercials? Those commercials show everything from women stopping traffic to running out of bed to go to the bathroom. That’s truly what urge incontinence looks like. One minute you’re doing just dandy and the next you feel the urge to go and then involuntarily leak.

Mixed Urinary Incontinence

Many women with bladder leakage experience a combination of stress incontinence, urge incontinence, and even some of the different types of incontinence mentioned below. This is known as mixed incontinence and occurs when your bladder leaks have multiple causes.

If you’re simply not sure, then start keeping track of your symptoms and see if you notice any common triggers. You can also take an incontinence quiz to get an idea of which urinary incontinence is affecting you.

Less Common Types Of Incontinence

Functional Incontinence

What is it called when your urinary tract works properly but bladder leakage still happens? Functional incontinence. This bladder leakage condition is common among individuals with other conditions like dementia, mental illness, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and more. It’s not so much that the individual doesn’t feel the urge to go, but they often can’t get to the bathroom fast enough. Limited mobility can make it difficult for one to get to the restroom in a timely fashion. In other scenarios, an individual’s condition may cause them to be unaware or unconcerned with going to the bathroom.

Overflow Incontinence

Earlier, we mentioned how overflow incontinence was a common issue for those who take certain medications. With this type of bladder incontinence, the kidneys keep sending the bladder urine even when it’s full. With the nerves not telling the bladder that it’s time to go, the bladder begins to stretch. As a result, the urethra opens up and urine leaks out.

Post Void Dribbling (PVD)

PVD, also known as Post Void Dribbling, occurs when you go to the bathroom and then experience leaks almost immediately afterward. Although this issue is more common in men, it does affect women with pelvic floor dysfunction. Women with pelvic prolapse may have difficulty completely emptying their bladder. As a result, when they stand up from the toilet urine leaks out.

Post void dribbling can also happen if you’re rushing while using the bathroom. It’s important to take your time while using the bathroom so your pelvic floor can relax, the bladder can contract, and you can get everything out.

Nocturia & Nocturnal Enuresis

Nocturia is when you need to pee a lot at night. Nocturnal enuresis is a fancy word for bed-wetting. While most individuals produce less urine while they sleep, those with nocturia tend to produce more. In some circumstances, the bladder just can’t hold the urine even when it’s not completely full.

Individuals with nocturia should avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine later in the day. They should also avoid drinking too much liquid close to bedtime. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is sometimes the cause of nocturia as well.

Woman with incontinence on beach

How To Manage And Prevent Bladder Leakage

Whether you’re working with a doctor or are going it alone, there are many easy ways to manage incontinence at home to reduce the frequency of your leaks. Here are a few suggestions to consider.

Kegels For The Win

Kegels can be a girl’s best friend when it comes to combating leaks. They’re pelvic floor exercises that help strengthen the muscles that control your flow. Keeping a daily practice can help manage leaks. There are also lots of devices out there that can help you stay on top of your Kegel routine.

Tighten Up With Pelvic Floor Exercises

Outside of Kegels, there are several other pelvic floor exercises you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor. Some of these include: wall squats, bridge, and jumping jacks — all while drawing in the pelvic floor. Try to do 1 round (40 repetitions) of each exercise per day and see if you notice any improvement in 6-12 weeks.

Train Thy Bladder

Bladder training can be extremely helpful for someone trying to combat incontinence. One way to train your bladder is urination delay. Going to the bathroom every half hour doesn’t work for most of our schedules, so bladder training is how you can get your bladder in check. Begin scheduling your bathroom visits so that your bladder gets into a routine. Also, when you do get the urge to go, don’t run to the bathroom right away if you can help it.

Bladder Diary

Before you start scheduling your bathroom visits, you’ll first need to see what you’re working with. Start logging each time you go to the bathroom in a bladder diary and then pay attention to how far apart your bathroom visits are. Then, begin spacing the time out between bathroom visits. Maybe start with adding 10 minutes, then 15. A bladder diary will make it easier to keep up. Plus, you’ll start to get a sense for what foods, drinks, and activities most commonly cause your leaks. Lily Bird even has a free bladder diary template you can download.

Double Voiding

Double voiding is a technique used to improve bladder emptying and reduce the occurence of leaks. With this approach, you’re simply trying to go more than once every time you go to the bathroom. After you use it, remain seated for another 30 – 60 seconds to see if you can go again.

It’s All In The Breathing

Deep breathing techniques will help you stay calm and refocus your mind when you have an urge. Keeping a daily meditation practice can also help you reduce stress levels that may be contributing to your leaks.

Acupressure

Acupressure stimulates pressure points and can effectively control your urges in the moment.

Your Diet Matters

Try adjusting your diet to eliminate certain food and drinks (like coffee or alcohol) that affect how often you go. Using a bladder diary can help pinpoint which foods are impacting your leaks and urges.

Lifestyle Choices

Make changes to your lifestyle to promote good urinary health. Cigarettes, alcohol, and carrying excess weight can lead to bladder challenges.

Stay Hydrated

Many people with leaks try to decrease the amount of liquid they consume to go to the bathroom less. However, the best thing you can do is stay hydrated. If you don’t drink enough liquids, then you’ll be dehydrated and the body won’t be able to function like it’s supposed to. Furthermore, dehydration causes urine to become much more concentrated, which is actually irritating to the bladder.

Say No To Late Night Liquids

Avoid drinking liquids at least 3 hours before bedtime to avoid nocturia and nocturnal enuresis.

Pee Proper

Maybe you weren’t taught this, but there’s a right and a wrong way to pee, so make sure you’re peeing properly. Rushing might mean that you’re not emptying your bladder completely. Really take your time, sit down without hovering, and allow your body to relax. Woosah!

Forego The “Just in Case” Pees

Those “just in case” pees can actually get your bladder off track. You’re giving it permission to go even when you don’t have to, which can make issues with incontinence even worse. You’re in control, just in case you forgot!

Skin Irritation & Incontinence

Managing any skin irritation is a big deal if you’re dealing with bladder incontinence. 40% of people that deal with bladder leaks have skin problems near their lady parts. The good news is, you can cure and even prevent rashes. If you experience a bladder leak, be sure to use an appropriate cleanser, dry your skin with a gentle washcloth, and use a barrier cream to moisturize the area.

Stimulation?

Consider pelvic floor stimulation. The vaginal or anal electrode can actually send an electric current that stimulates your bladder muscles.

woman with incontinence on bench with dog

Incontinence Products For Urine Leaks

If you’re experiencing bladder incontinence, then you’re probably tempted to skip out on activities that you enjoy. After all, it’s scary to imagine running errands or attending a party and accidentally leaking. However, leaks shouldn’t stop your show and fortunately, there are incontinence products to keep it your little secret.

Incontinence Pads

Disposable Pads: Convenient & Affordable

The most common incontinence pads used by women are disposable pads. They’re extremely convenient, affordable, and easy to wear. And it’s even more convenient when you get incontinence supplies delivered discreetly to your door from Lily Bird. Disposable incontinence pads are great for women that require light to medium coverage; they come in different thicknesses and absorbency levels. However, keep in mind that these incontinence products like this may cause skin irritation after prolonged use. In addition, if you’re doing an high-intensity activity, the pad may leak.

Reusable Pads: An Eco-friendly Option For Light Leaks

Reusable pads are also an option for women, especially those with very mild or infrequent leaks or those with very sensitive skin. They’re eco-friendly but aren’t as affordable in the short-term. Women with sensitive skin often like this option, but reusable pads do have to be changed more often because they aren’t as absorbent. After experiencing a leak, you should change them immediately since they don’t lock in fluid as effectively.

When a reusable incontinence pad is soiled it has to be washed. Sometimes strong detergent or bleach is needed to remove the scent. Although there are fewer sizes, shapes, and widths available for reusable pads than disposable pads, these kinds of incontinence products are still a good choice for the environment and body.

Incontinence Underwear

Similar to pads, there are also disposable and reusable incontinence underwear. Consider the options below:

Disposable Incontinence Underwear

For women that are very active or require a lot of coverage, disposable incontinence underwear is a great choice. They absorb odors well, are extremely convenient to pack and wear, and easy to dispose of. And extra convenient with incontinence supplies delivered discreetly from Lily Bird.

Because disposable underwear can be worn longer and offers more protection, they are more expensive than disposable pads or reusable incontinence products. If you plan to wear tight fitting clothing, then it’s possible that the underwear will show.

Tabs Versus Pull-up Style

You may notice that disposable incontinence underwear usually comes in two styles: tabs and pull-ups.

For incontinence underwear that includes refastenable tabs, you can open and close them as needed. In general, these are easier to take off because you don’t have to remove your pants or shoes.

On the other hand, you put pull-ups on and take them off like regular underwear. Sometimes they’re thinner and more discreet than tab underwear. A lot of people choose this option because it feels the most like normal underwear.

Reusable Incontinence Underwear

Reusable incontinence underwear is a great option for women with allergies, sensitive skin, and/or diabetes. While they don’t pack as much protection as the disposable incontinence underwear, they’re often more comfortable to wear. And they don’t bunch up so they’re easier to move around in.

Like the reusable pads, incontinence underwear is a more expensive choice and it requires more aggressive laundering products to remove odors. There are fewer sizes to choose from but they do offer a variety of fabrics.

Bladder Supports

A less common choice but a good option for short-term use during strenuous activity is bladder supports; they’re particularly good for swimming. Ladies who experience sneaky leaks from sneezing or coughing may find these beneficial. They stop leaks before they happen, which is a plus.

Wondering how they work? Bladder supports help in lifting and supporting your urethra and bladder. You insert them into your vagina like a tampon and they’re fairly comfortable to wear. However, they are a little more expensive than other incontinence products and can’t be used during your period. In addition, women that have limited dexterity may have trouble with insertion.

Pessary

If incontinence pads and underwear aren’t your thing, then a pessary may be a better option. A pessary is a ring that’s placed inside of the vagina. It presses against your bladder and urethra with the goal of limiting the number of leaks that occur throughout the day.

A pessary works better when it’s custom fit for your body. Otherwise, there’s a risk of it popping out and hitting someone in the face, which we’re sure you don’t want! Okay, maybe the last part was a stretch ;-).

The one thing to keep in mind is that having a pessary requires upkeep. They should be cleaned often or else you risk developing an infection. They’re good to wear throughout the day and perfect for activities like swimming or traveling.

Catheter

When you can’t use the options above, sometimes physicians decide to recommend a catheter instead. Catheters are an appropriate choice for severe cases of incontinence. For instance, if the bladder becomes too full, the urine could back up into the kidneys, which could cause kidney damage. A catheter would drain the urine out to prevent this from occurring.

There are different types of catheters: some you can insert yourself and others have to be done by a medical professional. The three types of catheters are:

  • Foley (indwelling) catheter
  • Clean Intermittent Catheterization
  • Suprapubic Catheter

Urethral Insert

Urethral inserts are a very uncommon option and are not widely available. It can be challenging to even find information about this type of incontinence product online. In short, a urethral insert is a small, silicon cylinder that is inserted into the urethra. After it’s inserted, a tiny balloon is inflated to keep it from moving around.

Urethral inserts are meant to be worn for a short period of time, such as while exercising. They’re a single-use product and a little on the pricey side, but they’re a good option for women with stress incontinence.

To Patch Or Not To Patch?

A newer item in the incontinence product market is the “patch”. It’s like switching from typewriters to laptop computers, but with incontinence products. The patch is placed over the urethral opening (where pee comes out) and is sealed with hydrogel adhesive seals so it doesn’t move out of place. Fancy huh?

Other Products For Bladder Leakage

Barrier Creams

Skin irritation is one of those things that sometimes comes along with incontinence. Fortunately, barrier cream can help to prevent it. Lotions and barrier creams for incontinence form a protective coating so urine doesn’t directly contact the skin after a leak. In addition, the constant friction between skin and incontinence pads can harm even the strongest skin. Barrier creams that include zinc are great for preventing skin irritation.

Bed Pads

Do you experience a few leaks throughout the night? If yes, then bed pads are a great option.  It’s hard to protect your sheets when you have unexpected leaks if you don’t use bed pads.  There are generally two types: disposable and washable.

Washable bed pads are more absorbable, secure, and eco-friendly. However, they can be a little hot to sleep on. Disposable bed pads are considered more hygienic, but they don’t always stay in place.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: A Word About Menstrual Products

Want to know a big no, no? Using menstrual products or pantyliner to combat incontinence. It’s easy to reach in your purse and grab a menstrual pad, but here is why you shouldn’t:

  • Menstrual pads don’t hold as much liquid as an incontinence pad,
  • They’re not designed to capture fast flowing liquids,
  • They’re uncomfortable as heck!
  • They don’t eliminate odor well, and
  • They can cause skin irritation (menstrual pads don’t neutralize the acid in urine like incontinence pads do!)

woman with incontinence

Incontinence Treatment

Navigating incontinence alone can be challenging, which is why it’s always a good idea to talk with a doctor about urinary incontinence. This is also another reason why it’s so important to keep a bladder diary so you can be able to discuss with your doctor exactly what’s going on.

What Kind Of Doctor Treats Incontinence?

Start with your OBGYN or primary care provider. If needed, they can recommend a specialist like a urologist or urogynecologist to rule out anything more serious.

In addition, pelvic floor physical therapists are helpful when trying to manage incontinence. Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common reason why some women experience bladder leakage. Learning how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, especially after pregnancy, childbirth, or an injury, can be extremely beneficial. Pelvic floor physical therapists are there to help you do that.

What The Doctor Might Prescribe

After you’ve talked with your doctor, they might prescribe one of the following methods to help treat your bladder leaks.

Natural, At-Home Incontinence Treatments

Not all cases of incontinence requires medication or surgery. In fact, you can improve incontinence with simple at home treatments. Your doctor may suggest deep breathing when you feel an urge. They may also recommend pelvic floor exercises to aid in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Lastly, bladder training is a great way to teach your bladder to listen to your brain. It helps you not have to run to the bathroom as soon as you get the urge. Your doctor can help you determine goals and next steps.

Incontinence Medications

If there was a medication you could take to cease the spritz, would you try it? Some women with urinary incontinence would exclaim a big ol’ “YUP!” Depending on your situation, your doctor may prescribe incontinence medications like pills, creams, hormonal rings and patches that include topical estrogen. These incontinence treatments will help most when the underlying cause of leaks is hormonal (like menopause). Doctors may also prescribe certain types of antidepressants, which can help decrease bladder spasms.

Other incontinence medications include:

  • Anticholinergics – Have an overactive bladder and/or urge incontinence? This might help!
  • Mirabegron (Myrbetriq) – Sometimes the bladder needs a little relaxing and that’s where this medication comes in. For ladies with urge incontinence, this medication helps the bladder hold a little more. And it actually makes going to the bathroom worth it! A lot of times with urge incontinence you get the urge to go and only a little bit comes out. This medication helps you pee more and actually empty your bladder.

Electrodes for Bladder Control

While this may seem out of this world, electric currents can zap your pelvic floor into shape. Your physician may provide an at-home vaginal electrode that you use a couple times per day for 6-12 weeks.

Biofeedback devices are also great for gaining control of the bladder and other muscles used for urination. A doctor pay prescribe this for individuals dealing with urge incontinence and/or the psychological burden associated with incontinence.

Injections

Your physician may also prescribe injections to help treat bladder leaks.

Thought botox was just for your lips and butt? Think again! Botox injections can relax the nerves and muscles surrounding your bladder too. Essentially, they increase the space in your bladder so you can store more urine (which means less leaks!). This is a preferred option for those who experience urinary incontinence as a result of nerve damage.

Another option is injectable bulking agents like collagen. Collagen thickens the tissue surrounding the bladder opening so that it can stay closed. This is an option for those who have a dysfunctional urethra.

Medical Devices

There are a number of different devices used to put incontinence in its place. In fact, some of them may shock you (literally)! From electrodes and biofeedback devices to pessaries and catheters, there are options. Check out the ‘Incontinence Products for Urine Leaks’ and ‘What The Doctor Might Prescribe’ sections of this article.

Surgery

Typically, surgery is the last resort for someone suffering from severe stress incontinence. But a doctor will recommend it if it’s medically necessary. Common types of surgery for incontinence include:

The Sling Procedure

This type of surgery involves a pelvic sling. It’s inserted around the urethra and bladder neck to help keep the urethra closed.

Bladder Neck Suspension

Bladder neck suspension involves placing stitches near the bladder neck and attaching them to ligaments near the pubic bone. This provides additional support to the bladder.

Prolapse Surgery

For pelvic prolapse, doctors often recommend surgery. This surgery secures the connective tissue with stitches and move the pelvic organs back into the correct place.

Artificial Urinary Sphincter

An artificial urinary sphincter is a small, fluid-filled ring that’s inserted around the bladder neck. It keeps the urinary sphincter shut until an individual is ready to urinate.

Insurance Coverage

All this talk about incontinence products…how can you actually pay for all this stuff? Here’s a quick summary of health insurance for incontinence care:

Paying For Incontinence Pads And Underwear

You’ll typically pay out of pocket for products like bed pads and incontinence pads/underwear. However, it depends on the insurance that you have. Some plans may offer some form of reimbursement, but in general, most plans do not cover the basics.

Medicaid plans do cover these types of products but Medicare plans does not.

Paying For Incontinence Medication

Most health insurance plans will cover common, generic brand incontinence medications. The best thing to do is review your prescriptions and call your insurance company to see what they cover.

Paying For Incontinence Devices And Other Treatments

Although treatments like injections, pessaries, and urethral inserts are less common, insurance typically covers them. Keep in mind you may need to cover the copay or coinsurance if you haven’t met your plans out-of-pocket max.

Paying for Surgery To Treat Incontinence

The good news is, if your surgery is medically necessary, then Medicaid, Medicare, and most employer sponsored health insurance providers will cover it. However, it’s also important to ensure that the hospital and medical team actually takes your insurance.

Living With Bladder Leakage

Before we wrap this thing up, there are two important things you should know.

The first is that millions of people, especially women, are currently dealing with or have dealt with bladder leakage. You’re not alone!

The second thing is that it’s possible to continue activities that you enjoy, even with spritz and sprinkles. A lot of women assume they need to completely change their lives once leaks start. But, there are so many products, exercises, and small lifestyle tweaks that can help you take control of leaks.

Bladder training and incontinence products can make traveling with incontinence a lot easier. Pessaries and bladder supports make swimming possible. And those are just two examples. There’s no reason to stop living your best life.

Build A Routine To Help

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to build a routine to take control of leaks.

Ready to get started? Start your free trial today with Lily Bird today! We’ll make sure you get the best products delivered discreetly to your door, right when you need them.

Want to talk to a human? Give us a shout.

hello@mylilybird.com

833-444-9477

Are you a long-time bladder leaks warrior? Share your advice in the comments for women who are new to dribble dilemmas!