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November is Bladder Health Month Week 1: Urinary Incontinence

Updated: Mar 22

Multiple rolls of toilet paper unrolling to signify all the challenges of urinary incontinence.

November is Bladder Health Month! Now's the perfect time to figure out what is ailing your bladder, so you can take action to get it back up and running in the background where it belongs, and stop thinking about it so often. We'll discuss different bladder conditions each week. What’s up for this week? Urinary Incontinence.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence simply refers to any involuntary loss of urine.

Did you know:

  • One third of postpartum women have urinary leakage at one year after baby

  • Incontinence affects nearly HALF of women age 50–80 and of those women:

    • 79% reported leakage with sneezing or coughing,

    • 64% leaked on the way to the bathroom,

    • 49% lost urine while laughing, and

    • 37% had leakage while exercising

  • 1 in 5 men over the age of 65 have urinary leakage

  • The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from the occasional leaking of urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge or that "gotta go" feeling that's so sudden and strong, you may not make it to the bathroom in time.

Research shows that pelvic physical therapy is first-line treatment for all types of urinary incontinence, so if leakage is a problem for you, it's a great place to start!

Keep in mind that not all leakage is created equally—there are different causes of urinary incontinence, as well as differences in the types which typically affect women and men. Let's look at these separately:

Common types of urinary incontinence in women include:

Woman smiling

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence is leakage that occurs with activity, such as coughing, sneezing, lifting, standing up from a chair or exercising. It is often related to weak and/or sluggish pelvic floor muscles and so strengthening these important muscles and learning how to activate them quickly are crucial first steps in addressing stress incontinence.

Urge incontinence and Overactive Bladder Syndrome

Urge incontinence is leakage that occurs when you get an overly strong urge to urinate and you can't make it to the bathroom in time. It also includes bladder symptoms such as:

  • having to go to the bathroom frequently (more than 6-8 times in a 24 hour period)

  • having to rush to get to the bathroom in time

  • having an overly strong urge sensation when you have to go

  • waking up at night more than once to empty your bladder

If you have these symptoms but do NOT leak, it is called overactive bladder syndrome. If you have these symptoms and DO leak, it is called urge incontinence.

Bladder retraining techniques, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and following healthy bladder habits help get overactive bladder symptoms under control.

Mixed incontinence

Mixed incontinence is when you leak in both these types of situations, and is quite common in women. In this case, it is important to treat both your stress and urge incontinence to get effective relief.

Common types of urinary incontinence in men include:

Man in the outdoors smiling

Post micturition dribble

Post micturition dribble (commonly known as "after-dribble") is when men experience an involuntary loss of urine immediately after they have finished passing urine, usually after leaving the toilet. Although the exact etiology is not fully understood, weakness of the pelvic floor muscles is considered to be the most important factor. Strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles, as well as something called bulbar urethral massage have been shown to be effective in treating this bothersome and embarrassing problem.

Stress incontinence

Just as in women, stress incontinence is leakage that occurs with activity, such as coughing, sneezing, lifting, standing up from a chair or exercising. In men, this is most common following prostate surgery or other pelvic surgery. Pelvic floor muscle training is first-line treatment.

Urge incontinence and Overactive Bladder Syndrome

Again, just as in women, men can experience urge incontinence and overactive bladder syndrome. It is more common with advancing age, and often, an enlarged prostate is to blame. Bladder retraining techniques, optimizing your pelvic floor muscle strength and following healthy bladder habits can help.

Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence is a less common type of leakage. It can occur when the bladder has trouble fully emptying, such as because of an enlarged prostate, or neurologic diseases such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. When the bladder can't fully empty, it can get too full and overflow, causing you to frequently leak or dribble urine.

Image of a question mark

Why is it so important to know what type of urinary incontinence you have?

Simply put, if you don't know what is causing your leakage, you can't effectively treat it. The exercises and strategies to treat each of these types of incontinence can differ dramatically, so before you jump in and start doing 1000's of kegels willy-nilly, stop and figure out what type of incontinence you may be dealing with. 🤔

Not sure what type of leakage you have? Take our quiz to help you find the answer, and receive personalized guidance in your inbox to get you started on better bladder control.

Still don't know where to start? Let me guide you. For 20 years I've been helping people of all ages conquer their bladder leakage, and I'd love to help you too. Schedule a free virtual appointment with me and I'll be happy to point you down the right path to a calmer bladder. ‍😊

Stay tuned for Week 2 of Bladder Health Month, where we will discuss bladder infections, interstitial cystitis and neurogenic bladder...

Happy Bladder Health Month!

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About the Author:

Angela is a licensed physical therapist and owner of My Pelvic Therapy, an innovative virtual physical therapy practice designed to provide discreet, at-home solutions for women navigating common pelvic floor problems such as bladder leakage, pelvic organ prolapse, and discomfort during intimacy. She received her physical therapy degree from Duke University, biology degree from University of Illinois, and has been a pelvic health specialist for 21 years.

You can contact Angela at You can also find her on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Nov 08, 2023

Thank you, Angela, for always helping to clarify problems in laymen’s language for easy understanding. it really helps!

Angela Fishman, PT
Angela Fishman, PT
Nov 08, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for the great feedback! Medical terminology often gets in the way of people getting help, and I think incontinence is a great example. For instance, if someone leaks a little when they sneeze, they're probably not labeling themselves as "incontinent", yet it's a health problem that needs to be addressed. So we need to change the language so people can get the help they need. Thanks for reading!

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