For some women, menopause can mean hot flashes, weight gain and insomnia. If that were not enough, some also experience incontinence. Bladder leakage may involve losing just a few drops of urine when sneezing or laughing. But for others, incontinence is more severe.
Why Does Incontinence Develop During Menopause?
In general, women are at a higher risk than men for developing incontinence. Pregnancy and childbirth can increase a woman’s risks of incontinence. But changes that may occur in menopause increase the chances of incontinence even more.
During the years leading up to menopause, estrogen levels decline. A decrease in estrogen may weaken the pelvic floor muscles and thin the lining of the urethra, which can play a role in developing incontinence.
There are a few different types of bladder leakage that may develop including stress, urge and overflow incontinence. Stress incontinence involves urine leakage when pressure is placed on the bladder. Coughing, heavy lifting and sneezing may cause urine to leak out.
Urge incontinence occurs when you always feel the need to urinate even if your bladder is not full. The condition is also called an overactive bladder.
Lastly, overflow incontinence may occur if the bladder does not empty fully. Urine may continually leak out in small amounts, or you may have a weak urine stream.
Treating Incontinence During Menopause
Incontinence doesn’t have to be another menopausal symptom you must learn to live with. There are several things you can do to decrease bladder leakage in menopause.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying extra weight can put added pressure on the muscles that support the bladder. The added pressure weakens the muscles. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a safe weight loss plan.
Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles
The pelvic floor muscles help you control the flow of urine. Squeeze the muscles in the genital and pelvic area. Hold the contraction for about five seconds and relax. Repeat the exercise five times. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles may help improve bladder control.
Time Your Visits
Timed urination can help you regain control over your bladder muscles and decrease urine leakage. Timed voiding involves scheduling your bathroom breaks and gradually increasing the time between urination.
Medication is also available to treat an overactive bladder, which may also reduce incontinence. There are different classifications of medications that may help including anticholinergics, estrogen creams and alpha blockers.