As our bodies age, many of our organs and systems change and don't work the same way as they once did. This is especially true of women going through menopause, which causes many changes in how a woman's body functions. One of those changes concerns muscles of the pelvis, which can affect the bladder and can lead to urinary incontinence, or diminished bladder control. Here's an overview of menopause-related urinary incontinence and what you and your OBGYN professional or gynecologist can do to help mitigate this embarrassing condition.

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary or accidental leakage of urine. The American Urological Association says that 25% to 33% of men and women in the U.S. suffer from urinary incontinence. It can have many causes, but in women, it often happens as a consequence of menopause.

Why Can Incontinence Be a Consequence of Menopause?

When a woman goes through menopause, her ovaries stop producing estrogen. As a result, the vaginal tissues become less elastic, the pelvic muscles weaken, and the lining of the urethra, which empties urine from the bladder, becomes thin. All these changes can result in less control over the muscles that help control urination. Less control means urine leakage is more likely.

What Can Be Done to Control Incontinence?

Although incontinence is a common consequence of aging and menopause, there are things you can do to mitigate the condition. The best solution will depend on the specific issues you have. For example, does your incontinence occur when you laugh, sneeze, or lift something heavy? Strengthening the pelvic muscles through Kegel exercises (tightening your pelvic muscles for a few seconds and releasing) can help. Or a vaginal cream can help tighten the muscles that control your bladder. Also, a vaginal insert called a pessary, which presses against the urethra, may help you control leakage, or an electrical stimulation device that causes the pelvic muscles to contract. Over time, this can strengthen the muscles and reduce leakage.

If you leak mainly at night, limit your water intake after dinner. If you are on a certain type of blood pressure medicine, your doctor may switch you to a different medication. Also, extra weight can push on your bladder, so losing a few pounds can help.

It's important to consult with your physician, who can help you determine the primary cause of your urinary incontinence and help you find a solution. It might be embarrassing to ask for help, but it's likely not as embarrassing as purchasing adult diapers or having a leak in a public place.

For additional information, contact a gynecologist's office such as