Although stress incontinence is most typically associated with pregnancy, declining levels of estrogen during and after menopause can lower muscular tone, increasing the risk of leakage.
Most of the causes of stress incontinence are to do with a weakening of the tissues that support various structures in your body, in this case your bladder. It’s all about your internal strength.
If you’ve been through menopause and you experience leaking when you cough, laugh, sneeze, exercise, or lift, or if you get an urge to go to the toilet that comes without warning, you probably suffer from stress incontinence. You may even leak without realizing it.
Although many women simply live with this condition, I urge you to see your doctor so that he or she can rule out any serious cause. Your doctor will typically offer you one of two techniques for proving relief.
Surgical techniques If you’re offered surgery, it’s likely to come in one of two forms. The first is a sling operation. This takes around half an hour and usually requires only a local anesthetic. Two incisions are made: one in your groin and another in your vagina. Through these, a surgeon inserts a piece of surgical tissue to form a sling to support your urethra and vagina, essentially doing the work of the weakened muscles. You’ll usually be out of hospital within 24 hours. Or, you may be offered colposuspension. Performed under general anesthetic, this operation requires an incision just above your bikini line. Surgeons tighten the pelvic floor muscles with stitches, lifting the neck of the bladder. Surgery for stress incontinence has a good success rate, but in some cases the problem returns.
Other Types of Urinary Incontinence
Stress incontinence is not the only type of urinary incontinence you may have. The others include:
Urge Incontinence – This occurs when women can’t hold their urine long enough to get to a bathroom. Healthy women can have the condition, but it occurs most often in women with diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. It may also be an early sign of bladder cancer.
Overflow Incontinence – This is when small amounts of urine leak from a full bladder, and it’s typically caused by diabetes and spinal cord injury.
Functional Incontinence – This occurs in women with normal bladder control, who can’t get to a bathroom in time because of a disorder, such as arthritis, which stops them from moving quickly.
Collagen bladder-neck injections Your doctor will recommend these if your incontinence is caused by a weak outlet valve in your bladder, or if you’ve tried surgery and it didn’t work. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic, and your surgeon will fill your bladder with water and then inject collagen (the connective tissue for bones and skin) into several places along the bladder neck. This plumps up the bladder wall and makes the urethral tube smaller, so you experience more resistance to passing urine. The procedure has a good success rate (up to 70 percent). The only side-effects are those from the operation (passing blood or stinging when urinating), which subside in a few days.
Your muscles, ligaments, and soft tissues all need vital nutrients to perform at optimum levels. This means revising your diet so it’s as healthy as it can be is an essential first step to overcoming stress incontinence.
Try drinking a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice daily. Although this is most well known as a successful natural remedy for urinary tract infections and cystitis, it can also help prevent incontinence. (You can take it in capsule form, if you prefer once a day).
Vitamins and Supplements
You can use supplements to help improve muscle control and strengthen collagen in your body.
Vitamin A (beta-carotene) This vitamin can help the body to produce collagen and enhance the strength of your cartilage, which keeps the organs in your pelvic area in position.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids (twice daily, as magnesium ascorbate) This can also help encourage the formation of collagen in your tissues.
Calcium and Magnesium Take these minerals together to improve urinary muscle control.
Take 300mg of each of the following herbs, in capsule form, twice daily; or combine the tinctures of each in equal parts and then take 1 tsp. of the combined tincture in a little water, twice daily.
Horsetail This herb has a high silica content. This compound is important for healthy ligaments and it helps provide good amounts of collagen.
Ladies’ Mantle Ladies’ mantle has an astringent effect on the body, helping to tighten up tissue and ligaments.
Other Natural Treatments
Homeopathy Take the appropriate remedies from the following list at 30c potency, twice daily. Consult a practitioner for a constitutional treatment plan, too.
• Causticum is useful if you feel you need to go to the toilet frequently
• Nat mur helps balance the changes to your hormones following menopause
Acupuncture An acupuncturist inserts needles along meridians, including the urinary bladder and liver meridians, to help strengthen the pelvic floor.
Tighten your pelvic floor The single, most important thing you can do for yourself is to tighten up your pelvic floor muscles, using Kegel exercises. Practice these exercises at least once a day.
Monitor your fluids It’s important to drink between six and eight glass of water a day, but it’s also important not to drink too much. Try to keep a note of how much water, juice, and herbal tea you are drinking because these all count towards your fluid intake. Once you’ve reached eight glasses of liquid in a day, think twice before drinking any more. Experiment with the amount you drink and see how your fluid intake affects the stress incontinence until you find a happy medium.