5 Facts You Should Know About Incontinence

  1. Incontinence is the loss of bowel or bladder control.
  2. Incontinence - urinary and bowel - is believed to affect more than 25 million Americans.
  3. Incontinence affects people of all ages - young and old - both sexes, and people of all races.
  4. Incontinence is not a disease; it is not part of being a woman; and it is not just what happens as you get older.
  5. Incontinence is a symptom with many causes, so it is important to seek treatment to find out what is causing it and what can be done about it.

Urologists, Urogynecologists, and Gastroenterologists, oh my!

There are a number of options for healthcare providers that you can see to address your bladder control problems, but how to decide who to see?

Start with your primary care provider (PCP) when seeking treatment of problems with bladder or bowel control. This may be a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant. If a PCP does not have a special interest in diagnosing and treating incontinence or symptoms persist, you may ask to be referred to a urologist or urogynecologist. A urologist is a surgeon who specializes in the urinary conditions of men and women. A gynecologist is a doctor specializing in the reproductive health of women. Some have special interest and training in urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. If they have advanced training in this area, they may become urogynecologists and no longer deliver babies. A geriatrician is a doctor who specialized in treating older people. A gastroenterologist is a doctor to who specializes in problems of the intestinal system. If you have diarrhea, constipation, or fecal incontinence, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist. Some specialize in surgery and are known as colorectal surgeons. Nurse specialists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists may have training that qualifies them to offer electrical stimulation and biofeedback therapy as a means of treatment.

No matter who you see, be sure that you are comfortable with your provider and that they have an interest in treating you. Never feel guilty about getting a second opinion from another provider. There are several ways to find the right specialist. Begin by asking your family doctor for a referral to an incontinence specialist. In addition, you can search NAFC’s Find An Expertdatabase for all of the various healthcare professionals near you. If we do not list a healthcare professional within driving distance of your home, you may want to look in your yellow pages where physicians are listed. Call your local hospital, and ask if the hospital has a continence clinic. Confide in a friend. Often friends will tell you where they had their treatment and if they were satisfied.

Which type of healthcare provider have you seen for your bladder control problems? Have you ever felt your concerns were ignored or not taken seriously by your provider?

Ten Warning Signs of Bladder Control Problems

  1. Leakage of urine which impacts your activities
  2. Leakage of urine causing embarrassment
  3. Leakage of urine after an operation, such as a hysterectomy, Caesarean section, or prostate surgery
  4. An urgent need to rush to the bathroom and/or loss of urine if you do not arrive in time
  5. Frequent bladder infections
  6. Urinating more frequently than usual without a bladder infection
  7. Pain related to filling the bladder and/or during urination in the absence of a bladder infection
  8. Inability to urinate, also known as urinary retention
  9. Progressive weakness of the urinary stream with or without a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
  10. Changes in urination related to a neurological condition such as stroke, spinal cord injury, or multiple sclerosis
Have you experienced any of these warning signs? If so, consider seeing a urologist or urogynecologist for treatment. Use NAFC's Find An Expert database to find a provider near you.

Incontinence and Childbirth

Urinary incontinence affects 30-50% of childbearing women by age 40. Up to 63% of stress-incontinent women report their problem began during or after pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth are also risk factors for fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. The trauma of childbirth has lasting effects on a woman’s body—that’s why it’s important to do Kegel exercises now! Life after childbirth does not need to entail a routine of pads and liners, or a struggle with symptoms at home or work, at the gym, or in the bedroom.

Are you one of the 63% of stress-incontinent women who began experiencing bladder control problems during or after pregnancy? Are you experiencing those problems right now? Are you seeking/did you seek treatment for this issue? Share your story with us!

Vocabulary Lesson

Since this blog is relatively new, this post will be an introduction to the vocabulary dealing with the bladder control problems and related pelvic floor dysfunction that we will discuss here. These are problems that women of all ages can face.

Urinary incontinence is a loss of bladder control.

Fecal incontinence is defined as loss of control over gas or stool, affects up to 25% of childbearing women, often resulting from injury during birth.

Stress incontinence is leakage that occurs when laughing, sneezing, coughing, lifting heavy objects, or exerting other pressure on the bladder.

Overactive bladder (OAB) refers to frequent bladder spasms resulting in urinary frequency, sudden urges to go to the bathroom, and having to get up at night to go to the bathroom.

Urgency incontinence is the loss of urine due to the inability to reach the toilet after the sudden or frequent urge to urinate. It is most often caused by overactive bladder (OAB).

Mixed incontinence is a combination of stress and urge incontinence.

Pelvic organ prolapse refers to weakening around the vagina, uterus, and pelvic floor. Common types include cystocele (dropped bladder), rectocele (bulging rectum), and uterine prolapse (dropped uterus).

Nocturia is defined as being awakened at night one or more times in order to pass urine.

Pelvic floor muscles are a complex "hammock" that includes different types of muscles and tissues that support the pelvic organs (the bladder, the vagina, the uterus and the rectum). The pelvic floor muscles help to support the sphincter muscle that keeps the bladder closed while it fills with urine. These are the muscles that you exercise with Kegel or Pelvic Muscle Exercises (PMEs).

Are there any other terms you need defined to help describe your problem?


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