The Symptom Women Don’t Talk About
Let’s talk about leakage. I’m talking about urinary incontinence, or the involuntary loss of urine. It happens to 70 percent of women around the hormonal changes in perimenopause and menopause.
The urinary tract is very sensitive to the effects of estrogen and progesterone throughout life. When levels of these hormones decline, some atrophy (wasting away) of the muscles occurs in the urinary tract and pelvic floor. Loss of elasticity in the vagina and weakening of the pelvic floor muscles can result in urinary leakage, the feeling like you need to urinate often and urgently, and needing to urinate during the night.
Do you notice urine leakage when you cough, sneeze, laugh, jump, or exercise? This is known as stress incontinence, and it’s the most common type seen in menopause. Have you ever felt a sudden, urgent need to pee but you wet yourself before you can reach a bathroom? This is known as overactive bladder and is another type of urinary incontinence. It can occur if you hear water running, when you drink fluids, or you change position, such as getting up from a chair. Women with an overactive bladder often feel the need to pee very often or wake up several times a night to urinate.
Kegel exercises can help. If you do this simple exercise three times a day for several months, you can regain significant control over your pelvic floor muscles. To identify these muscles, pretend you are trying to stop peeing. Those are the muscles you want to strengthen.
To do Kegels: Empty your bladder. Sit or lie down. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold them for 3 to 5 seconds. Relax the muscles for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat this cycle 10 times, three times a day.
Other tips to help manage urinary incontinence include losing excess weight, talking to your doctor about any medications you are taking that may contribute to incontinence (especially diuretics), and avoiding constipation by eating more fiber and staying well hydrated. Keep following my posts for much more on menopause and women’s health.