It’s easy to take your bladder for granted, until something goes wrong.
You likely don’t even realize it’s there, other than when it lets you know it’s time to pee. It quietly does its job—it holds urine and then gives you the signal that it needs emptying. Most of us can hold on for a while after that signal, and the bladder holds the urine until we can get to a bathroom.
That means you can do what you want and go where you want, and not worry about long car trips, for instance, or going to an exercise class. That all changes when you are diagnosed with stress urinary incontinence, or SUI.
SUI is when you involuntarily leak urine during moments of physical activity that increases abdominal pressure—coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, and more.1 What can be done to relieve SUI? Are there alternatives to surgery for SUI?
How Common is Stress Urinary Incontinence?
SUI is the most common type of urinary incontinence in women. It affects approximately 13 million people in the United States alone. It’s also much more prevalent in women than in men. Overall, 30% of women will develop SUI within 5 years after their first vaginal birth.2
SUI might not sound like much to those who don’t suffer with it, but it is associated with significant personal and social costs—embarrassment, curtailment of daily activities that may cause urine leakage, anxiety over finding a bathroom, and even depression.2
There are financial costs too, as urinary incontinence in the United States was estimated to cost $16.3 billion—and that was back in 1995. That includes the cost of incontinence pads and undergarments, most often borne directly by individuals because they aren’t covered by health insurance.2
What Causes SUI?
SUI can happen when the pelvic floor—the tissues and muscles that support the bladder and urethra—become weak and allow the section of the bladder where the two connect to descend during bursts of physical activity. This descent prevents the urethra from working properly to control the flow of urine.1
SUI can also occur when the sphincter muscle that controls the urethra weakens, and it can’t stop the flow of urine when there is an increase in abdominal pressure.1
Here are reasons and risk factors for SUI:
- weak muscles from pregnancy, childbirth, aging, or prior pelvic surgery1
- chronic coughing1
- chronic straining1
- age—prevalence gradually increases with a peak at middle age and steady increase after age 653
It’s true that there are surgical treatments for SUI, but there are other options too.
Alternatives To Surgery For SUI
Here are some treatment options for SUI before resorting to surgery:
1. First-line therapies consist of lifestyle changes based on the risk factors. That can include losing weight, quitting smoking, and making changes to diet and fluid intake.3
2. Pelvic floor muscle training, also known as Kegel exercises. These are exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor by contracting and relaxing the pelvic muscles. They may improve muscle strength and function and help to hold urine in the bladder longer.1 They are frequently used in conjunction with other treatment options.4
3. Vaginal inserts and pessaries. A pessary is a device that is placed into the vagina to support the uterus, bladder and rectum. Because it presses against the wall of the vagina and urethra, it can help decrease urine leakage.5
4. Pelvic floor electrical stimulation such as lasers and radiofrequency waves. These low-grade electrical currents are used to stimulate weak or inactive pelvic muscles, encouraging them to contract. Electrical stimulation has been shown to be effective for stress incontinence, with cure and improvement rates ranging from 30 to 50% and 6 to 90%.4
The INNOVO Urinary Incontinence Kit is one way to end problem leaks. Using Multipath Technology, your pelvic floor is engaged and strengthened, allowing you to perform 180 precise Kegels per session without side effects. Think of it as the perfect Kegel exerciser, allowing you to properly train your pelvic floor.
5. Vaginal laser therapy, a relatively new treatment option that has been shown to reduce SUI.4 This involves using a laser in the vagina to strengthen the vaginal walls, to help support the bladder and reduce symptoms of urinary stress incontinence.6
See a Doctor
It’s important to talk to your doctor about SUI and the impact it’s having on your health and well-being. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. A treatment plan can be developed with alternatives to surgery for SUI, to help relieve symptoms and reduce your incontinence condition.