Women's Health Matters

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Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence (UI) is the accidental or unwanted leakage of urine. An estimated 1.5 million Canadians have some type of bladder control problem, and most are women. Urinary incontinence can develop at any age, but as we get older, it becomes more common because of changes in the body and illnesses that affect bladder function.

Fifty percent of women ages 60 and over suffer from urinary incontinence. However, studies show that only about 30 percent of people with incontinence seek treatment. Women may not seek treatment because they feel embarrassed or believe that there is nothing that can be done about it. This is unfortunate since there are many treatments available, and most cases of urinary incontinence can be improved or cured.

Most healthy people will empty their bladder about every three to four hours (six to eight times in 24 hours). Getting up once at night to urinate is normal. But getting up more often at night, leaking urine when doing activities, or not being able to hold your urine until you reach a nearby bathroom is not normal.

Women are more likely to experience UI because of the physical changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth and after menopause. Childbearing can stretch the pelvic muscles that hold organs in place and damage the nerves and tissue in the bladder's neck. The position of the uterus, bladder and bladder neck in the abdomen can also change and affect your ability to control your bladder. The drop in estrogen that occurs during menopause can weaken a woman’s pelvic and vaginal muscles and tissues and increase the likelihood of incontinence.


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital