Menopause causes millions of women to experience urinary incontinence due to the increasing loss of bladder control that accompanies decreasing hormone production. There are three main types of incontinence that commonly occur during menopause: stress incontinence, urge incontinence and overflow incontinence. There are also three different levels of treatment: lifestyle changes, alternative medicines, and medications and surgery. A closer look at the different types of incontinence and treatment options can help you better manage your condition.
Do you lose a few drops when you cough, sneeze or laugh? Do you leak when lifting something heavy? Does pressure on your bladder reduce your sense of control? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then you’re likely dealing with the most common kind of bladder control problem encountered by women going through menopause: stress incontinence.
Does the urge to pee come on so fast and unexpectedly that you can hardly make it to the bathroom in time? You’re not alone. Also known as an “irritable” or “overactive” bladder, urge incontinence is likely the driving force behind your regular rush to the restroom. You may also feel a constant urge to pee, even with an empty bladder.
Frequent or constant dribbling of urine is a sign your bladder has trouble emptying fully – your bladder fills up and then overflows, causing leakage. Women going through menopause with an under-active bladder muscle could experience a weak urinary stream, nocturia (the urge to urinate at night), urinary hesitancy or other common symptoms.
Urinary Incontinence Treatments
Urinary incontinence treatments range from lifestyle changes and alternative medicines to medication and surgery. Rather than rush to find a surgeon, start with the least obtrusive treatment option – lifestyle changes – and work your way up to the more invasive measures.
Treatment Level 1: Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes signify the most basic level of urinary incontinence treatment with the least amount of risk. Start by cutting down on harmful substances including caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. Additional lifestyle changes include:
- A full 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night
- Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises for stress reduction
- A balanced diet including supplemental vitamins B, C, D and E
- Regular exercise and hydration
Chances are you can also benefit from pelvic floor muscle training, also known as kegel exercises. You can manage incontinence by performing this simple exercise technique several times a day:
- Lie on the floor and squeeze or pull in the pelvic muscles.
- Hold them tight for a count of three.
- Release, rest for moment and repeat.
Treatment Level 2: Alternative Medicines
In combination with basic lifestyle changes, opt for alternative medicines that help stimulate the natural production of estrogen and other hormones. Consuming certain herbs can help. Therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, massage and aromatherapy all prove extremely effective in treating urinary incontinence with little to no risk. The best alternative medicine treatment involves a combination of approaches.
Treatment Level 3: Medications and Surgery
Prolonged or drastic cases of urinary incontinence may not respond to simple lifestyle changes or alternative medicines. In these cases, pharmaceutical and surgical treatment options may be more effective, but often come with higher risks and costs. The side effects of pharmaceutical drugs are inevitable but the benefits may outweigh the risks. Speak to a healthcare professional about hormone replacement therapy and other medical or surgical options.