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Stress Incontinence


Lt Col Flemings
Many women who have given birth more than once experience a condition called stress incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when the bladder leaks urine during physical activity or exertion. Dr. Malone, what else can you tell us about stress incontinence?

Dr. Malone
Well, Dr. Flemings, most adults can hold between 400 and 600 milliliters of urine in their bladder. When a woman has stress incontinence, it means the muscles that control her ability to hold that urine get weak or don’t work. Stress incontinence can affect two sets of muscles:

  • The pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder and urethra, and
  • The sphincter, which is muscle around the opening of the bladder that acts like a valve to let urine pass through to the urethra

When either set of muscles becomes weak, urine can leak when pressure is placed on the bladder. Women with stress incontinence may notice leakage when they cough, sneeze, laugh, stand up, exercise, have sex, or lift heavy objects.

Age, pregnancy, and vaginal delivery are the most common risk factors of weakened pelvic floor or sphincter muscles, but injury to the urethra, surgery in the pelvic area, and some medicines can also cause stress incontinence.