June 19, 2023

What Is Stress Incontinence?

stress incontinence

Stress Incontinence

You lift a heavy object, sneeze, cough, or laugh vigorously and leak a little urine. That’s what’s known as urinary stress incontinence. The slight increase in pressure in your abdomen forces a small amount of urine to escape your bladder. It can range from a drop or two to a stream, depending on the degree of stress incontinence and the action that triggers it. Stress incontinence can be a frustrating condition that causes skin irritation, anxiety about potential leaks, and embarrassment when they occur. Anyone can experience this condition, but it’s more common in women. This article addresses the causes and treatments for stress incontinence.

Stress Incontinence Causes

Several factors can contribute to the development of stress incontinence, including: · Weakness in the pelvic floor muscles that causes the bladder to lower · Weakness in the bladder neck muscles that prevent full closure · Problems with how sphincter muscles open and close Obesity, smoking, and chronic coughing increase the likelihood of stress incontinence. Changes in a woman’s body are also a significant cause of stress incontinence. These include things like: · Menstruation · Pregnancy · Childbirth · Pelvic surgery Fortunately, there are several ways to treat stress incontinence.

Stress Incontinence Treatment

If you develop stress incontinence, your doctor will likely order tests to assess your bladder function. They include imaging, measurement of bladder pressure and contents after urinating, and others. Based on their findings, your doctor can prescribe one or more of the treatments below.

Weight loss

Obesity can cause or worsen stress incontinence. So, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce incidents of urine leakage.

Kegel exercises

These are exercises you can do anywhere to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. You pretend to urinate and then flex the muscles that stop the flow, repeating several times. Over time, the muscles get stronger and better able to prevent leaks.

Timed voiding

This practice involves recording when you urinate and when you leak urine. A better understanding of your bladder habits enables you to schedule bathroom visits in a way that reduces your leakage risk.

Pelvic floor therapy

This treatment is provided by a physical therapist with specialized skills in pelvic health. Pelvic floor therapy involves stretching, strengthening, and breathing exercises that can reduce or eliminate incontinence and help with other conditions caused by a weak pelvic floor.

Pessary and other devices

Your doctor can insert a device called a pessary into your vagina that puts pressure on your urethra and helps keep it in a normal position. Small weights can also be inserted into your vagina so you can contract your pelvic muscles to hold them in and thereby improve your muscle tone.

Electrical stimulation

Small electrical currents from various types of devices (pads in the pants, small implants, etc.) can be used to stimulate weak or inactive pelvic muscles, causing them to contract.


Your doctor can periodically inject bulking agents like collagen that increase the urethra lining. This creates added resistance to the flow of urine.


If other interventions aren’t successful, a surgeon can perform various minimally invasive procedures to reduce stress incontinence. They include:

  • Sling procedure. The surgeon puts a sling of natural tissue around the bladder neck or urethra and attaches it to your pubic bone.
  • Retropubic suspension. The surgeon attaches the neck of your bladder to your pubic bone with stitches.
  • Artificial sphincter. More common in men, this procedure puts a fluid-filled cuff around the urethra that the patient can open and close manually.

What Is the Recovery Time for Stress Incontinence Surgery?

Recovery time for stress incontinence surgical procedures varies depending on factors such as your overall health, the type of procedure, etc. However, you may be able to resume most daily activities within a few days to a few weeks. Complete recovery may take six weeks or more.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Doctor About Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is common, but that doesn’t mean you need to tolerate it. If you experience it, contact your Baptist Health primary care doctor or urologist. They can talk with you about your symptoms and the full range of treatment options to improve your bladder control and help you regain your comfort and confidence.

Learn More.