Menopause is a normal, natural, gradual process affecting women that occurs at the average age of 51. According to the National Center for Continence, more than 40 percent of menopausal and post-menopausal women suffer from some kind of urinary incontinence or bladder leaks.
However, the question of whether these problems are specifically caused by the hormonal changes associated with menopause or are caused simply by advancing age hasn’t quite been settled in the medical community. For example, a 2014 study of 328 women concluded that “hormone deficiency after menopause is unlikely to play a major role in urinary incontinence” and a long-term study of 373 middle-aged women published in 2001 concluded that “urinary incontinence in middle-aged women is more closely associated with mechanical factors than with menopausal transition.” But a smaller 2017 study of 47 women suggested that “low levels of circulating sex steroids might have a negative impact on the function of the lower urinary tract and on mechanisms involved with continence.”
While the exact nature of the connection between menopause and bladder leaks may not be completely clear, numerous medical professionals have noted the general connection between menopause and bladder leakage. According to Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD, “problems with bladder control are a very common issue in menopause. A big reason is the decline in the level of the hormone estrogen, which contributes to the health of the bladder and urethra, as well as the strength of the muscles that control them.” Dr. Jill Rabin states that “menopause is a leading cause of incontinence. Estrogen levels drop during menopause, the muscles and tissues in the pelvis lose strength and support due to lower levels of collagen (a supporting protein in the skin), and organs prolapse (sag), which for many women causes incontinence.”
If you’re a woman experiencing menopause and bladder leaks, it’s best to bring it to the attention of your doctor, gynecologist, urologist, or other medical professionals who can perform an appropriate examination and prescribe an effective treatment plan. While it’s possible that your bladder leaks are linked exclusively with menopause, it also may itself be a sign of a serious underlying condition that your doctor can scope out. Provided that such an underlying cause can be ruled out, it’s possible that you can take steps to ameliorate your condition and improve your quality of life. These include:
- Lifestyle changes. The consumption of certain fluids is known to irritate the bladder and/or cause excessive production of urine. These fluids include those with alcohol or caffeine, so reduce or eliminate these from your diet. A balanced diet, ample rest, and proper hydration may also help.
- Targeted exercises. Kegel exercises, also known as PFMT (Pelvic Floor Muscle Training), can strengthen weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles, which is important for proper urination.
- Products providing immediate relief from embarrassment. While many women suffering from bladder leakage use feminine products to soak up the leakage, these do not have adequate absorbency capacity to do a proper job. A better choice is washable incontinence panties with odor control, such as those made by Salk. To protect bedding and other surfaces, Salk’s CareFor™ waterproof sheeting provides complete urinary incontinence protection for sheets, mattresses,and chairs.
- Other therapies. Alternative medicines may help stimulate the natural production of estrogens and other hormones required for good health and proper urinary function. Therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, massage, and aromatherapy may provide useful in terms of treating bladder leaks. In some cases, pharmaceutical medications or surgery may be warranted, but again, it’s best to first speak with your doctor about your condition before proceeding further.