Is incontinence during menopause normal?

What you need to know about one of the most common symptoms of menopause
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Between hot flushes and mood swings, you would think that menopause couldn’t get any more testing. 

Until one day you notice your bladder isn’t holding up like it used to. 

Urinary incontinence (UI) is one of those menopause symptoms no one warns you about, yet so many of us experience it. 

In fact, 55 percent of post-menopausal women have some form of the condition. 

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“Whilst not all cases are due to menopause, it is considered to be a significant contributor to most UI cases,” says ConfidenceClub consultant Sonya Meyer. 

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“Unfortunately, menopause and incontinence are two topics not discussed enough individually, let alone together.”

Below, Sonya shares how the two are linked and what we can do to help minimise our symptoms.

There are numerous products on the market to support those who support from incontinence (Credit: Getty)

Why does incontinence occur during menopause?

Incontinence during menopause all comes down to oestrogen. This is the hormone responsible for regulating your menstruation, which drops as we begin menopause. 

“This reduced oestrogen level can cause your pelvic muscles to weaken and as such, they may no longer be able to help control your urinary tract as they once did,” Sonya says. 

“As women age, the bladder also loses elasticity, so when it fills with urine the loss of stretch can irritate the bladder and cause us to want to urinate more frequently. This is known as urge incontinence.”

Sonya explains this weakened pelvic floor and loss of elasticity create the perfect storm for urge incontinence. It can also trigger stress incontinence, which is where physical activity puts pressure on the bladder. 

“Sneezing, coughing, heavy lifting, and exercising may also cause urine leaks during this time,” explains Sonya. 

If you struggle with incontinence, you should cut stimulants (such as coffee) out of your diet (Credit: Getty)

What is the impact of incontinence?

Incontinence can come with other physical health conditions such as incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD) – a skin condition caused by exposure to bacteria in urine – and urinary tract infections due to the inability to empty the bladder fully. 

The condition can also take a toll in other ways. 

According to ConfidenceClub’s 2023 annual survey, 78 percent of participants said having incontinence impacts their mental health. In addition, 81 percent reported that incontinence negatively affected their social life. 

“Incontinence can cause people to withdraw from their social life and isolate themselves from friends and family because of embarrassment and discomfort,” Sonya says. 

“But, there is plenty of support and even comfort in knowing that one in three people experience some form of incontinence.”

It is important to speak to your doctor if you have any questions (Credit: Getty)

How to manage symptoms of incontinence

Strengthen your pelvic floor

Do pelvic floor training regularly. While you can find beginner-style exercises online, Sonya recommends seeing a pelvic physio for correct guidance and a tailored program. 

Avoid constipation

This can increase the abdominal pressure leading to incontinence. Eating a high-fibre diet and staying hydrated are some ways to avoid constipation. Speak to your doctor if you’re having difficulties. 

Avoid stimulants

Steer clear of caffeine, alcohol, and smoking as these all contribute to incontinence. 

Consider hormone therapy

Speak with your doctor about whether oestrogen hormone therapy might be right for you. 

Speak to your doctor about bladder training 

Research shows that bladder training can assist with some bladder issues (including incontinence). It essentially aims to decrease the frequency of going to the toilet, add a longer amount of time between toilet trips and increase the amount of urine you’re passing. 

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