Incontinence: causes and symptoms

Stress incontinence is when you wet yourself during exercise, coughing, sneezing or laughing


Stress

Stress incontinence is when you wet yourself during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or other movements that put pressure on the bladder. The ligaments that hold the urethra (the tube through which you pass urine) in place no longer function effectively, leading to leakage.

Pregnancy and childbirth

It is mostly related to pregnancy and childbirth. Consultant urogynaecologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan says: “Relaxin, the hormone which allows ligaments to soften and stretch during pregnancy, affects the ligaments supporting the pelvic floor and urethra.

“A lot of women blame delivery for their incontinence but it may have been the pregnancy itself.”

Overactive

An overactive bladder is an “involuntary and sudden contraction or squeezing of the muscle in the wall of the bladder, even when the volume of urine in your bladder is low”, according to the website oab.ie

READ MORE

“One symptom is having a strong urge and having to drop everything and run to the toilet,” says O’Sullivan. Other symptoms are frequently needing to go to the toilet (eight or more times a day, or two or more times a night) and, in some cases, accidental leakage of urine because of not getting to the toilet in time.

“It is less common in younger people but about 17 per cent of the population display symptoms,” says O’Sullivan. “Getting up in the night to pee, known as nocturia, can affect sleep, mood, partners. It is one of the main causes of falls and fractures among older people and is especially serious for women with osteoporosis.”