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Do you leak when you laugh? Here’s all you need to know about stress incontinence

Published on:19 September 2021, 17:00pm IST
Have you found yourself leaking urine when you laugh out too loud? It may be that you are suffering through stress incontinence.
Dr Neha Gill PT
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Stress incontinence
Stress incontinence is more common than you think. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Laughter is the best medicine, but what if it becomes a reason for stress or embarrassment. Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine and stress incontinence is the most common of them all. Every 1 in 3 women suffer from this condition, but think of it as an embarrassing situation. They don’t talk about it and live with it every day. And because of this, some may isolate themselves from social gatherings. They don’t even realize that there are many ways to deal with it.

What is stress incontinence?

Stress incontinence is when a small amount of urine leaks from the urethra when you cough, sneeze or even laugh. This is basically when the abdominal pressure increases and the muscles in the pelvis weaken. This causes the bladder to drop down into a position that prevents the urethra from closing completely, resulting in urine loss. This usually happens with women, who have given birth, but it can affect women of any age group.

During pregnancy and childbirth, these pelvic floor muscles weaken, as they carry the weight of the baby. So, these muscles work really hard and lose their elasticity. That is why it is important to train these muscles after birth as well.

urinary incontinence
You could be suffering from stress urinary incontinence. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Women who experience this during pregnancy have more chances of developing it at an early age. Depending upon the severity of the condition, you may experience dribbling or squirting. If the condition worsens, there is a high likelihood that you may leak while bending or while standing up.

Apart from pregnancy and childbirth, there are several factors that increase the chances of developing stress incontinence:

Age: Women of older age groups are more affected, as with age, muscles get weak.

Mode of delivery: As compared to C-sec, women who have undergone normal delivery have more chances of developing it. Further, in assisted normal birth, women who have undergone forceps delivery instead of vacuum extraction have higher chances of developing it.

Body weight: People who are overweight or obese have a high chances of stress incontinence, because it increases pressure on the abdominal and pelvic organs.

Previous pelvic surgery: Women who have undergone hysterectomy can have stress incontinence, as it can weaken the muscles that support the bladder and urethra.

Nerve injury to lumbar spine

Smoking: Smoking can be associated with chronic coughing, and when you cough, it again increases the abdominal pressure.

Constipation: Women who have a history of chronic constipation can also suffer from stress incontinence, as there is an increase in the abdominal pressure.

Excessive caffeine: Caffeine intake increases urination, and frequent urination can also cause leakage.

urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence can happen due to multiple reasons. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
How can you help yourself?

Lifestyle changes: Cut down on your caffeine intake, alcohol use and smoking.

Avoid constipation: Include high amounts of fibre to your diet.

Weight management: Losing weight reduces severity of stress incontinence.

Maintain your bladder diary: It is important to know how much or how frequent you leak. This will also give you an idea to know the triggers. This will help your healthcare provider to understand your case.

How can physiotherapy help you?

Pelvic floor muscle strengthening: Kegel exercises can help in strengthening your pelvic muscles, thereby helping to prevent leakage.

With physiotherapeutic modality, we can stimulate the muscles by sending mild electrical current through your pelvic floor muscles that helps in strengthening them.

Dr Neha Gill PT Dr Neha Gill PT

Dr Neha Gill PT is a Senior Physiotherapist with the Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chandigarh.