It’s a common scenario. It’s Saturday night, you’re laughing with your friends and having fun, and all of a sudden you have to pee…. NOW. Naturally the line is 12 people deep and now you’re doing the holding your pee skip hop and jump from leg to leg dance trying to make it to the front without talking, breathing, laughing. Why oh why does this happen???
Let’s break it down. There are a lot of reasons that cause urinary leakage or incontinence. Having a baby, especially through the vaginal exit route, is a major cause of pelvic floor dysfunction, but not the only reason women have this issue (yes women without children, I’m talking to you).
A woman’s anatomy is different from a man as well. The bladder has a tube that sits on top of the vagina called the urethra. This tube is only 2-3 cms long in a woman, so it is significantly easier to leak compared to men.
Bladder irritants: Why is “breaking the seal” a thing? Certain foods and drinks are actually irritating to the bladder tissue itself. Coffee, alcohol, sugar, citrus, acidity, even certain types of nuts- all of these things can make the bladder more sensitive so it feels like you can’t hold urine for as long or with as much volume. If you are noticing bladder irritability and incontinence getting more pronounced, try tracking what you are eating and drinking and see if you notice a trend. This is the same principle when you are dehydrated, the more concentrated (ie yellow) urine is more irritating to the bladder wall, and hence you feel the sensation stronger.
Poor bladder training: Doctors, nurses and teachers are especially guilty of this. The bladder is this intricate muscle that is trained to hold urine with certain contracting forces and release urine with certain forces- it’s actually quite a wonder we aren’t leaking urine all the time. When you go for long periods of time (anything more than 3 hours) without urinating, it makes this system less efficient. It’s almost like a balloon that has been stretched and released over a period of time, eventually it loses it’s bounce. I tell people that work in these fields that it is extremely important to be mindful of tracking your habits and retraining your bladder. Even if you haven’t had time to drink water you are still producing urine.
Prolapse: Most people think of prolapse in association with childbirth. However, there are a number of things that can weaken the pelvic floor musculature that can contribute to incontinence. Chronic coughing (women with allergies, smokers, chronic bronchitis), throwing up a lot, being overweight, lifting heavy things- these are just a few habits that increase the pressure in the abdomen and weaken the infrastructure over time.
These are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with urinary incontinence. Exercise, drinking water and doing kegels can help strengthen the pelvic floor. Don’t forget to discuss these issues with your physician to get some more personalized recommendations. And while you’re at it – go grab yourself a glass of water!