Winter can be a time that highlights a common issue for women. With coughs and colds comes urinary stress incontinence. Yes, we may chuckle when someone jokes “I wees when I sneeze” but it’s not funny and women shouldn’t have to put up with leaking urine.
Many women who have had babies, even by Caesarean section, have a weakness in the tissue that supports the urethra. During a cough or sneeze the pressure in the bladder rises and urine will leak out if the urethral valve is weak. Exercise can also be a trigger, particularly running and jumping. Also laughing
Women who come in to discuss their stress incontinence have usually had the problem for years!
I’ve heard from many women that they gave up exercise because of urinary leakage. This can lead to weight gain which often makes the problem worse. When a patient has her stress incontinence problem successfully treated, she can resume a full active lifestyle.
Stress incontinence is best treated with a program that covers lifestyle change, physiotherapy and potentially surgery.
Lifestyle change is primarily directed at weight reduction. Put simply, reducing body weight will reduce the forces applied to the bladder during events such as a sudden stopping in sports like tennis or netball or through impact when running. We work with BWC’s dietitian Rachel Jeffery and exercise experts for optimal results.
Physiotherapy programs are designed to maximize the strength and function of the pelvic floor. Our physiotherapy is provided at the clinic by Belinda Matthews. A study showed that more than 50% of women are unable to switch on their pelvic floor when asked. Belinda can assess whether you are ‘switching on’ your pelvic floor correctly using ultrasound imaging and an internal exam and then set a program to help you learn what good pelvic floor exercise really means. Most times, physiotherapy is all that’s needed to regain continence.
For women requiring a surgical solution to stress incontinence, I use the TVT sling. I was fortunate to be working at the Royal Women’s when the procedure was first introduced and have been using the technique ever since. This day-surgery procedure places a band or “sling” under the urethra to give extra support. Most of the time the sling is inactive. During a sneeze or jump, the sling provides the necessary support to maintain continence. Urethral slings are a minimal access (keyhole) procedure. Long-term follow up data has been published confirming their effectiveness. As with all procedures, risks and expected success rates must be discussed beforehand.
A leaky bladder was once considered part of “a woman’s lot in life” but modern approaches to treatment have gone a long way to help with properly solving this age-old and very common problem.
Make an appointment today by calling the Ballarat Women’s Clinic on 03 5332 9940
Written by Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, Dr Patrick Moloney
We work and live on Wadawarrung land. We acknowledge Elders, past present and emerging.
Together with Brigid Moloney, we have put together a team of health professionals with expert knowledge to care for women at every stage of life. Welcome to the Ballarat Women's Clinic.