Types of Incontinence: Identifying and Management

Jessica Lubahn 6 min read

types of incontinence


Urinary incontinence is more common than you think. At least half of women and one fourth of men will experience incontinence in their lifetime. Peeing your pants is not just an accident that happens to little kids. Adults experience loss of urine too, and it occurs in increasing frequency as we get older.

Women in particular are more prone to incontinence compared to men. A woman's bladder takes a lot of punishment, including the stress of pregnancy, child birth and hormonal fluctuations in middle age. Both men and women can suffer from incontinence brought about by excess weight, smoking, as a side effect of stroke or other neurological disorders. 

The point is that it’s not embarrassing to talk to your doctor about incontinence. You probably know a lot of people who have it, they’re just not talking about it. Some of those suffering from urinary incontinence might even be a member of your family. There is some scientific evidence that says incontinence before the age of 40 may be determined by genes.

When you find yourself with an overactive bladder, before you’re even middle aged, there’s a 50% chance your parents or siblings have gone through, or will go through the same experience. 

Urinary incontinence happens when you wet yourself unexpectedly, even if it is just leaking urine. Even leaking a small amount of urine can affect your quality of life. This causes social embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy in many adults. You may find yourself having to go back to wearing diapers to cope.

If you are seeking medical advice for incontinence, you should see a urologist. Urologists specialize in the urinary system. But you can also approach your general practitioner or family doctor, or even a nurse practitioner, since urinary incontinence is fairly common. Women can talk to their OB/GYN.

Many pregnant women experience a little incontinence during and after their pregnancy. There are different types of urinary incontinence and you may need to see a specialist depending on the type and severity of your condition. 

Incontinence Caused by Stress

stress incontinence

Stress Incontinence is the kind of urine leakage you get after you sneeze. Some may leak when they laugh, experience a fright, bend or lift something heavy, any action that will compress the bladder muscles will squeeze out a few drops. This is very common, and usually indicates weak pelvic floor muscles.

If this kind of incontinence happens too often or causes you distress, you can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises and other exercise moves that target the pelvis and lower abdomen. Both men and women can do Kegel exercises, even if it is more often recommended to women.   

Urge Incontinence or Overactive Bladder 

Overactive Bladder (OAB) is a kind of syndrome that has a psychological aspect. People who have OAB will experience multiple urgent pee breaks, day or night. I may even interrupt your sleep.

OAB is the kind of incontinence experienced as a sign of aging. It is a common ailment for those who have diabetes, have suffered a stroke or multiple sclerosis. 

If Urgency Incontinence gets in the way of your normal life, it becomes a problem. This kind of incontinence happens because your brain is signaling you to “release” even when the bladder is not full. These misfired signals can be caused by neurological damage or hormone fluctuations. It could be a side effect of a medication you’re taking or a disease that makes changes to the brain, like multiple sclerosis or a stroke. 

Temporary Incontinence

This is the kind of incontinence we all want to have, the temporary kind. Temporary incontinence is usually triggered by a diuretic, or some other chemical stimulus to the bladder. Some common diuretics include alcohol, soda drinks, coffee, chocolate, peppers, spicy food, some medications, and mega doses of vitamin C. Just avoid your potential triggers and you’ll avoid any accidents. 

Some people experience temporary incontinence as a symptom of another illness. Urinary tract infection can irritate the urinary tract, and lead to unexpected incontinence.

Constipation and other inflammation in that area can cause incontinence. The rectum is close to the bladder, and can press on nerves in that same area. Stressed nerves can make you leak. 

Incontinence Caused by Pregnancy and Childbirth

incontinence after pregnancy

When you’re pregnant or pushing out a baby, incontinence is the least of your problems. But it helps to know what is normal and what to expect. Weight gain that comes with pregnancy, in addition to the weight of the fetus and all its baggage, is going to treat your bladder like a squeeze toy. Keep a look out for the restroom signs when out in public at all times, in case of emergency. 

Childbirth, particularly natural delivery can weaken or damage nerves, muscles and tissue that support the urinary tract. It can also move your organs downward from their original place, causing a protrusion that is sometimes accompanied by incontinence. 

Incontinence After Menopause or a Hysterectomy

Women’s incontinence can happen with drastic chance in hormones. A big event like menopause or a hysterectomy where the uterus is removed, can trigger incontinence. If you already have incontinence problems, the depletion of female hormones can make incontinence even worse. 

Unfortunately, there is no sure cure for some cases of incontinence. It may never go away. The best one can do is to adapt to the failings of the human body. If you are likely to get incontinence because of poor health or family heredity, then take extra measures to decrease your risks.

Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Don’t smoke, smoking has been linked to increased risk for urinary incontinence. Smokers may develop Stress Urinary Incontinence.

Eat more vegetables and dietary fiber, to avoid constipation. Frequent constipation puts stress on the urinary tract, and may damage nerves. Take measures to avoid getting Urinary Tract Infections. 

When it comes to the great, embarrassing leaking problems of life, prevention is the best way to go. If you already have incontinence, and that’s why you are here reading this article, there are still things you can do to reduce its frequency and severity. If incontinence is inevitable and unavoidable, as the case for pregnancy, don’t hesitate to use aids like incontinence underwear or sanitary napkins.