Is Incontinence Putting a Damper on your Quality of Life?

SouthCrest physician talks about female incontinence and bladder leakage

It never fails. You are at a party looking fabulous, wearing your brand new outfit that fits in all of the right places. You start to mingle, chatting with friends, when all of a sudden someone makes you laugh uncontrollably and the flood gates open. You find yourself frantically trying to find a restroom because you are experiencing that dreaded “accident.” If you have bladder leakage or incontinence issues, this may sound familiar.

Urinary incontinence affects more than 12 million adults in the United States and women are more likely to be affected than men. The probability of having urinary incontinence increases as females age. However, this is not just an issue in older women. Young women, even teens can be affected as well.
“Incontinence is an embarrassing issue,” says Dr. Paul Whitham, a board-certified gynecologist and obstetrician at SouthCrest Hospital. “People tend to just put up with it, but it is a medical condition and help is available.”


There are four types of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence is when a stressor such as laughing or coughing puts pressure on the bladder and causes leakage. This can be caused by pregnancy or childbirth, excessive weight gain, high impact sports, and aging. Another type is urge incontinence or overactive bladder which is the immediate need to urinate without warning or a very short warning if you are lucky. This can be caused by certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or by having a urinary tract infection. Mixed incontinence is another condition that is typically a combination of urge incontinence and stress incontinence. Lastly, overflow incontinence is another type of incontinence that typically means the bladder is unable to empty completely when urinating which causes leakage. This issue can be caused by certain medications or nerve damage that impairs the bladder.


Clearly, the main symptom of urinary incontinence is the accidental leaking of urine and the inability to control urination. “If you accidentally release urine when you cough or laugh, then most likely you are experiencing incontinence,” Dr. Whitham says. “However, there is no need to be discouraged, as treatment options are available.”


Sometimes you can cope with incontinence by making simple and small changes in lifestyle. You can start by wearing small absorbent pads if necessary. Also, instead of drinking a few large bottles of water at one time, drink smaller amounts spread over a longer period of time. Limit the amount of caffeine that is consumed. Caffeine is a diuretic which will make the situation worse. Make pelvic exercises such as Kegels a daily routine to strengthen pelvic muscles which help control leakage. When laughing or coughing, brace yourself and tighten those muscles! If you try these things and it doesn’t seem to help, consider seeing your doctor for additional options and treatment.

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Dr. Whitham is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is a member of American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, obtained a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed a residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at Ingham Regional Medical Center/Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan. Dr. Whitham is in practice at SouthCrest Medical Group Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Categories: Health