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What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is any time urine comes out (leaks) when you don’t want it to, something that happens to many women. There are different types of urinary incontinence, and treatment options can depend on the type of incontinence you have.

If you see a doctor to discuss urinary incontinence, you may be asked some of these questions:

  • When did this problem start?
  • How often does urine come out when you don’t want it to?
  • How much urine comes out?
  • When you feel the urge to urinate, do you have to rush to the bathroom? Does urine ever come out before you get to the bathroom?
  • Do you feel urine leak out when you cough, sneeze, laugh, lift or exercise?
  • How often do you urinate during the day?
  • How many times do you wake up from sleep because you have to urinate?
  • Do you worry about leaving the house because of urinary incontinence?
  • Are you always aware of where bathrooms are when you go out?

What is urge incontinence?

“Urge incontinence” is when urine comes out when you have an urge but before you want it to. For example, you feel a need to urinate but on your way to the bathroom, urine comes out.

What is stress incontinence?

“Stress incontinence” is when urine comes out during activities that put pressure or “stress” on your bladder. This can include lifting heavy items, coughing, exercising, laughing or sneezing. Incontinence may occur with some or all of these activities, and may happen every time or just sometimes.

What is going on in my body that leads to stress incontinence?

Stress incontinence happens when the supports to urethra (the tube that leads from the bladder, where urine is stored, to the outside) weaken. Supports include muscles and connective tissues. When these are strong, leaking does not happen, even under the pressure of laughing, coughing or exercising. However, when those supports weaken, activity that places pressure on the bladder and urethra can cause urine to leak out.