“Stress incontinence” is the involuntary loss of urine that occurs when “stress” or pressure on the bladder is increased during physical movement of the body. It has nothing to do with psychological stress. Activities that can cause stress incontinence include coughing, sneezing, bending over, lifting things, jumping, dancing, running, exercising, or even just walking.
The underlying cause of stress incontinence is a weakness in the pelvic floor, the tissue in the pelvis that supports the bladder and urethra. Pregnancy and childbirth increase the chances of stress incontinence because they may stretch, weaken, or damage the pelvic floor. However, many women with stress incontinence have had no pregnancies. The pelvic floor can get weaker with advancing age, and some women just have a genetic predisposition for a weak pelvic floor. Stress incontinence is a very common condition.
Stress incontinence can interfere with a woman’s daily life and decisions about social activities. There are surgical procedures available to treat this condition, but in the vast majority of cases, surgery is not necessary. Often there are pelvic floor exercises that a women can do herself. There are also specialized physical therapists who can treat stress incontinence.