The Types of
Leakage of small amounts of urine during
physical movement (coughing, sneezing,
Leakage of large amounts of urine at unexpected
times, including during sleep.
Untimely urination because of physical
disability, external obstacles or problems in
thinking or communicating that prevent a person
from reaching a toilet.
Unexpected leakage of small amounts of urine
because of a full bladder.
Usually the occurrence of stress and urge
Leakage that occurs temporarily because of a
condition that will pass (infection, medication).
It may happen when you laugh, but it’s not funny. Millions of women
experience the discomfort and embarrassment of stress urinary
incontinence, leakage of urine that occurs when you laugh, cough,
sneeze or exercise.
There are several types of urinary incontinence. Stress urinary
incontinence (SUI) is the most common. Women experience SUI more
often than men, largely because pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and
the structure of the female urinary tract, with a short outlet from
the bladder, contribute to the condition.
Urologist Marko Gudziak, M.D., St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, explains
that the condition often develops in women during their mid-40s,
although younger women also can have it. It’s caused by a weakness
of the urethral sphincter muscle and/or a weakness in the support
structure of the bladder. The depletion of estrogen at menopause is
a contributing factor.
well-known treatment for stress urinary incontinence
that Drs. Sprock and Gudziak don’t recommend is Kegel
exercises. These exercises to strengthen the pelvic
floor and sphincter muscles were developed in the 1960s
by a California doctor who claimed high success rates.
“Dr. Kegel’s success has not been duplicated,” Dr.
Gudziak said. “It’s easy to do Kegels incorrectly,” Dr.
Sprock explained. “If women learn to do them correctly,
Kegel exercises may help you manage a mild case of
stress incontinence, but it’s not going to cure you,”
“Women have two big misconcep-tions about SUI,” says
Marja Sprock, M.D., a
Henry Ford Health System gynecologist. “A woman may feel she’s the
only one who has the condition. Many also believe there’s nothing
that can be done about it. Maybe they’ve tried Kegel exercises (see
sidebar) without success. So they think they have to suffer with the
“Women are embarrassed to talk to their doctor about incontinence,”
Dr. Sprock says. “But they needn’t be embarrassed. The condition is
very common. Their neighbor probably has the same problem.”
It is important to have an evaluation by your PCP or OB/GYN so that
other problems, such as an infection, are ruled out. Once the type
of incontinence is diagnosed, there are many treatment options,
including medications and surgery.
44-year-old HAP Wise Woman who had a surgical procedure to correct
SUI advises other women to talk to their doctors. “Women don’t have
to suffer with this. Don’t let it go. It’s not going to get any
better without treatment.”