A little advice for an embarrassing (but common) problem

Maybe you remember thinking it was kind of funny that your mom wet her pants a little when she sneezed or laughed too hard. And maybe now you’re thinking it’s not so funny — because it’s happening to you.

If so, you aren’t alone. One out of four women deals with symptoms of urinary incontinence. This could be a pelvic floor disorder. And, thankfully, you don’t have to keep living with it.

Pelvic floor disorder — a condition caused by weakness to muscles of the pelvis — is the cause of urinary leakage and is a common problem for women as we grow older and go through hormonal changes like menopause. The impact of vaginal childbirth and obesity can also factor into the problem.

Thankfully, many women find relief with Kegel exercises that involve repeatedly contracting the pelvic floor muscles you use to stop urinating. Other women, though, may require specialized exercise, physical therapy, medication or surgery to fix the problem.

How do you know if you are suffering from a pelvic floor disorder? Start by asking yourself these questions:

• Do you accidentally urinate when you laugh out loud or sneeze?
• Do you often find yourself running to the bathroom?
• Do you avoid physical exercise because of urinary leakage?

There are several types of urinary incontinence, with stress and urge being the most common. Stress incontinence is loosing urine when you cough or sneeze. Urge incontinence leaves you frantic to find the restroom. You’ve just got to go. And some women are dealing with both types of incontinence.

With conditions such as pelvic floor disorder, it’s important for you to talk with your healthcare provider. Don’t be embarrassed. If this is affecting your activities of daily living — like exercise, enjoying a good joke, or physical intimacy — it’s time to stop and do something about it.

So what can you do? You could start by keeping a diary noting how much you drink and when and how much you urinate. Healthcare providers call this a voiding diary and it is often a key tool in helping providers to understand the issue. This information will be helpful when you visit your doctor. In some cases providers will want to do a urodynamic evaluation to figure out what is going on. This is a series of tests done in an outpatient office to diagnose the problem and figure out the right solution for you.

Painless, a urodynamic evaluation takes less than 30 minutes and is offered at the Center for Women’s Health at both Women’s Hospital and Medical Center Northeast. Our program provides the information and advice you need — along with therapy and treatment options, including simple outpatient surgery options.

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