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Top Five Myths About Urinary Incontinence in Women

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Uduak U. Andy, MD
Dr. Uduak Andy

Urinary incontinence—the fancy clinical term for those inconvenient leaks that women sometimes experience—is far more common than most people would expect.

Even though there are plenty of treatment options available for this condition, a lot of people buy into widespread myths about urinary incontinence in women.

Uduak Andy, MD, a urogynecologist at Penn Medicine, is all too familiar with these myths. She’s also ready to help spread the truth.

So here are the top five myths about urinary incontinence in women—busted.

Incontinence is a normal part of aging

Perhaps the most popular myth about urinary incontinence is that it’s inevitable—that as women age, their bodies are bound to lose the ability to hold their urine.

“One of the big risk factors for incontinence is advancing age, but it’s not normal,” Dr. Andy says.

Unfortunately, she adds, “Incontinence is one of the leading reasons why women will get put in nursing homes.”

There’s nothing you can do about incontinence, so just wear a pad

Too often, women assume that aren’t any treatment options available for urinary incontinence. And they’re very, very wrong.1 in 4 women experience urine leakage

“Not knowing that there are options for treating it is probably one of the big misconceptions and reasons why women don’t go to their doctors,” says Dr. Andy. Aside from the embarrassment, that is.

But wearing a pad is not a solution. It’s a band-aid that doesn’t address the underlying condition.

You’ll have to have surgery to fix your incontinence

On the other end of the spectrum, some women assume that a super invasive surgery is the only way to deal with the problem.

Many women don’t know that there are non-surgical treatment options for urinary incontinence. These treatments tend to fall under the umbrella of behavioral therapy. They include:

  • Pelvic muscle training: Kegel exercises can help build muscle control and prevent leakage.
  • Bladder training: Gradually expand the length of time between bathroom trips.
  • Relaxation exercises: Taking slow, deep breaths can help calm the urge to urinate until you can get to a bathroom.
  • Dietary modifications: Decreasing caffeine intake, for instance, can reduce the risk of leakage.
  • Medication: Some medications can help with bladder muscle control.

Your doctor can’t help you with incontinence

Stress incontinence vs. urge incontinence

Some women may want to seek treatment for their urinary incontinence, but don’t know where to turn.

“They’re not clear on who to see—should they see their primary care physician? A gynecologist? Women sometimes don’t know that there’s a specialist called a urogynecologist,” Dr. Andy says.

A urogynecologist is a doctor who specializes in both urology and gynecology.

“I like being a urogynecologist because it’s really a field where you help women live better. You get to improve their quality of life,” explains Dr. Andy.

The reason many women don’t know about this unique specialty could be because urogynecology is a relatively new field. Doctors only began receiving board certification in this specialty in 2013, according to the American Urogynecologic Society.

Running for the bathroom is a good idea

“A lot of women with urge incontinence will just beeline for the bathroom,” Dr. Andy says. “You’re not going to make it. You’re not going to be able to run your way to the bathroom.”

Instead, she says, “When you have that really bad urge, stop, take a deep breath, do a really strong Kegel to contract your pelvic floor muscles. The contraction will break a bladder spasm. Then, you can walk to the bathroom.”

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