Are you experiencing the effects of Menopause? Although menopause refers to the last menstrual period for a woman it is not a singular event but a process that generally takes place sometime between the ages of 40 and 60. Although menopause is a naturally occurring life-stage transition it can come with changes that are uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing. Along with hot flashes, trouble sleeping and vaginal dryness you may experience sensitive or overactive bladder.

Most Common Types of Urinary Incontinence in Women

There are two main types of incontinence that are common in middle aged women. The first is stress incontinence and is caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles. This causes the leakage you may experience when coughing, laughing, sneezing, jogging, etc. The other type is urge incontinence which is caused by irritated bladder muscles and is often referred to as “overactive bladder” because symptoms include frequent and sudden urges to urinate. You may also experience some leakage with this type of bladder dysfunction.

Common Causes of Incontinence in Women

Besides being caused by menopause, some of the common changes that take place for women during this time of life may be caused by aging or midlife stresses. Pelvic muscles weaken with age so as women, especially women who have given birth, reach midlife it is common to have weakened pelvic muscles. Also adding to causes of incontinence during menopause is lower estrogen levels, weight gain, lower bladder elasticity and urinary tract infections.

Four Ways to Manage Incontinence During Menopause

You don’t have to go it alone. Talk to your doctor early and often as there are many different ways to alleviate symptoms of urinary incontinence. Your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or surgery although risk versus benefits should be discussed with your doctor when making these decisions. There are other less risky things that you can do including pelvic muscle exercise, controlling weight gain, cutting back on caffeine, and use of absorbent pads.

1. Pelvic Exercise – Known as Kegel exercise, this term refers to controlled contraction of the muscles at the base of the pelvic area. Such an exercise program usually includes alternate contracting and relaxing of the muscles that will start and stop urine flow. Strengthening these muscles can help bladder leakage when coughing, laughing, jogging (stress incontinence).

2. Weight Management – Extra weight can increase pressure on the bladder causing more frequent urination (urge incontinence). It can also weaken the pelvic floor muscles increasing stress incontinence.

3. Caffeine and Alcohol –  Using diuretics such as these can cause the bladder to fill more rapidly adding to overactive bladder symptoms.

4. Absorbent Products – There are many products designed to absorb urine such as panty liners, pads, and adult diapers. These products should be used instead of menstrual pads since they are usually made to absorb faster and reduce urine odor.

Whether caused by menopause or simply as a result of aging, with proper management, urinary incontinence doesn’t have to get in the way of enjoying midlife and beyond.