Some women begin to have problems with their bladder and experience overactive bladder (gotta go, gotta go right now) and urinary incontinence or loss of urine at inopportune times at the time or shortly after menopause.
Does Menopause Affect Bladder Control?
Yes. Some women have bladder control problems after they stop having periods (menopause or change of life). If you are going through menopause, talk to your health care team.
After your periods end, your body stops making the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen may help keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. A lack of estrogen could contribute to weakness of the bladder control muscles.
Pressure from coughing, sneezing or lifting can push urine through the weakened muscle. This kind of leakage is called stress incontinence.
Although there is no evidence that taking estrogen improves bladder control in women who have gone through menopause, small does may help thicken the bladder lining and decrease the incontinence. Your doctor can suggest many other possible treatments to improve bladder control.
What Else Causes Bladder Control Problems in Older Women?
Sometimes bladder control problems are caused by other medical conditions. These problems include:
Nerve damage from diabetes or stroke
Difficulty walking or moving
A very common kind of bladder control problem for older women is urge incontinence. This means the bladder muscles squeeze at the wrong time and cause leaks.
If you have this problem, your doctor can prescribe medication that can certainly alleviate that problem.
What Treatments Can Help You Regain Bladder Control?
Your doctor may recommend limiting foods or fluids, such as caffeine, which are bladder irritants and increase the desire to go the rest room.
There are also pelvic exercises that can strengthen the muscles in the urethra and the vagina. Life’s events like childbirth and being overweight, can weaken the pelvic muscles.
Pelvic floor muscles are just like other muscles. Exercise can make them stronger. Women with bladder control problems can regain control through pelvic muscle exercises, also called Kegel exercises.
Exercising your pelvic floor muscles for just five minutes, three times a day can make a big difference to your bladder control. Exercise strengthens muscles that hold the bladder and many other organs in place.
Two pelvic muscles do most of the work. The biggest one stretches like a hammock. The other is shaped like a triangle. Both muscles prevent leaking of urine and stool.
Pelvic exercises begin with contracting the two major muscles that stretch across your pelvic floor. There are three methods to check for the correct muscles.
1. Try to stop the flow of urine when you are sitting on the toilet. If you can do it, you are using the right muscles
2. Imagine that you are trying to stop passing gas. Squeeze those same muscles you would use.
3. Lie down and put your index finger inside your vagina. Squeeze as if you were trying to stop urine from coming out. If you feel tightness on your finger, you are squeezing the right pelvic muscle.
Do your pelvic exercises at least three times a day. You can exercise while lying on the floor, sitting at a desk or standing in the kitchen.
Be patient. Don’t give up. It’s just five minutes, three times a day. You may not feel your bladder control improve until after three to six weeks. Still, most women do notice an improvement after a few weeks.
Other treatments include inserting a device, a pessary, directly into the vagina to lift the urethra and the base of the bladder to its proper position behind the pubic bone. And finally, if the conservative methods of medication, exercises, and dietary modification don’t work, then you should talk to your doctor about one of the surgical procedures that can lift the bladder into the proper position to prevent leakage
Bottom Line: No one needs to suffer the embarrassment of urinary incontinence. Help is available for all those women who have bladder control problems