Oh, hormones. The signaling molecules that not only influence our mood and behavior but also regulate certain cells and tissues. To put it simply, hormones pack a lot of punch. Have you ever felt cranky and couldn’t put your finger on why? Do you ever find yourself craving chocolate during certain times of the month? And have you ever noticed that leaks are more common during one part of your cycle over the other? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you can chock it up to your hormones. Let’s dive in to what hormones have to do with incontinence.
Hormones and Your Pelvic Floor
As you may already know, the pelvic floor is essentially an area of muscles that stretch over your pelvic bone. Its role is to support your uterus, ovaries, bowel, and the infamous bladder – just to name a few. During the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause, our pelvic floor changes A LOT. And guess who’s partially responsible? Our hormones! Specifically estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Frenemy #1: Estrogen
Estrogen helps the pelvic floor remain strong, stretchy, and limber, which allows us to have control over our bladder function. When estrogen levels begin to decline, then we experience a loss of tissue strength in the pelvic floor. In other words – when it’s right and tight, then we’re alright. However when it’s a little loose, then we experience some droops…and drips.
Frenemy #2: Progesterone
Progesterone is the hormone that relaxes smooth muscles, like the the tissues surrounding your urethra. Too much of this hormone can lead to leaks. In fact, urinary incontinence is one of the many symptoms associated with excessive progesterone levels.
Frenemy #3: Testosterone
Yes ladies, we need testosterone too. Not only does it keep our bones healthy, enhance cognition, and maintain our sex drive, but it also impacts our pelvic floor. Testosterone builds up skeletal muscle, especially the pelvic floor musculature. Therefore, when testosterone levels are lower, it could also mean more leaks.
Our Monthly Cycle and Bladder Leaks
Take a moment to imagine the up and down motions of a roller coaster. The visual you’ve got in your mind is similar to the ever changing hormone levels during your monthly menstrual cycle.
As you probably already know, the menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period. At this stage, estrogen levels are low. The lower estrogen levels make you more likely to experience leakage, and need more bladder leak products, early on in your cycle.
Pregnancy, Hormones, and Bladder Leaks
We all know that pregnancy comes with some significant hormonal and physiological changes. Estrogen and progesterone levels steadily increase during pregnancy in order to help the fetus properly develop. As a result, there’s a whole lot of organ shifting and tissue softening, which can be a little uncomfortable for a momma to be.
Although increased estrogen levels help to prevent leaks, high levels of progesterone has the opposite effect. Progesterone causes the ligaments and joints in the body to loosen up in order to support a growing baby. The result is a relaxed pelvic floor with a growing baby and organs putting pressure on your bladder…and of course, leaks!
Perimenopause and Leakage
Most women begin experiencing perimenopause in their late 30s or early-to-mid 40s. It’s a stage in our lives when the ovaries start to make less estrogen and stops releasing eggs. Some women experience what is called the estrogen roller coaster, which is when estrogen levels go up extremely high and then plummet down to practically zilch. Other women experience a slow and gradual decline in estrogen, which is classified as low estrogen perimenopause. On average, perimenopause lasts four years.
One of the first signs of perimenopause is the urge to pee more frequently or leak a little when sneezing or coughing. The decrease in estrogen causes pelvic floor muscles to weaken overtime and makes bladder control more challenging.
Menopause, Hormones, and Leaks
Menopause, also known as “the change,” occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55. This stage in a woman’s life indicates that she has not had a period in one year. The aging ovaries produce less LH and FSH, and in turn there is a significant drop in estrogen levels.
During this time, the urethra becomes less flexible and more dry, which causes that “gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now” feeling. In addition, the pelvic floor and its surrounding ligaments are weaker and less elastic. That alone is a recipe for leaks.
Hormones Got Everything To Do With It
Hormones have a whole lot of control over our pelvic floor and, in turn, bladder leaks. Don’t be afraid to implement some Kegels, buy bladder leak products, or eliminate bladder irritants from your diet so the occasional spritz doesn’t rain on your parade.
What stage are you in? Have you noticed more leaks? Tell us in the comments! And then sign up to have bladder leak products delivered conveniently to your door from Lily Bird.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH