The Need to Pee: What Causes Stress Urinary Incontinence?

Why Women Are More Likely to Suffer from Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence is the most common form of incontinence in women under 60. Here’s what it is and what causes your need to pee.

Stress urinary incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) affects between 4% – 45% of women in the United States.

This condition affects both genders–but women are more likely to have it.

SUI is the most common type of incontinence in women under 60. Want to learn more about SUI, what causes it, and treatment options? Keep reading to learn about this condition.

What Is Stress Urinary Incontinence?

SUI is the accidental loss of urine. It happens from physical stress on the body such as sneezing, coughing, or working out.

To understand why it happens, it helps to learn about the way our body works. Our bladder stores urine. The muscles in our bladder contact when its ready to empty.

The urine goes out through the urethra which is a tube. Our sphincter muscles keep that tube closed until we’re ready to empty the bladder.

When we’re ready to go to the bathroom, the sphincter muscle relaxes and allows the urine to exit. With SUI, the stress on the body forces the sphincter muscles to relax and open–resulting in unintentional urination.

Symptoms of Stress Urinary Incontinence

Do you think you have SUI? If you have this condition, you may involuntarily leak from the following actions:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Laughing
  • Running
  • Lifting objects
  • Sex
  • Standing up

However, you may not leak every time you perform one of these actions. It depends on whether or not your bladder is full.

For mild cases of SUI, you may leak just a couple of drops of urine. In severe cases, you might end up urinating all over your clothes.

SUI can have embarrassing side effects that may force you to avoid social interactions. You might avoid working out, especially in public. You might also avoid major social events.


Here are some of the factors that can contribute to SUI.

Pregnancy and Birth

Women are more likely to experience SUI because it can be caused by pregnancy and childbirth. Your pelvic floor muscles can be weakened or damaged during childbirth. Women who give birth vaginally are more likely to experience SUI than those who have c-sections.

Pelvic Surgery

SUI can occur from any damage to the pelvic floor. This includes pelvic surgery, nerve damage, or chronic coughing.

Women who have had a hysterectomy may be at risk for SUI.

For men, the most common cause is from prostate surgery. The sphincter is located below the prostate gland. When the prostate gland is removed, the damage can weaken the sphincter muscles.

Additional Risk Factors

There are additional risk factors for SUI. You can have weakened muscle tone over time due to aging.

You may also be at risk if you participate in high impact sports or repeated heavy lifting.

Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Menopause
  • Diseases that result in chronic coughing


Fortunately, there are treatment options for stress incontinence.

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor may recommend lifestyle and behavioral changes that can decrease the severity of your SUI.


By strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, you can treat SUI. Kegel exercises can strengthen the muscles around your bladder. They are easy to do and can be done at any time.

To do a Kegel exercise, hold the muscles that start the flow of urine. When you’re using the bathroom, these are the muscles that start and stop urination. Tighten these muscles for about 3 seconds, then relax them for another 3 seconds.

Do these exercises 10 times in a row, and repeat the set three times a day. When you do Kegels, make sure to only tighten your pelvic floor muscles, not your stomach or thighs.

If you maintain these exercises, you may see results in a few weeks or months.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight can put you at a higher risk for stress incontinence. This is because the extra weight puts more pressure on your bladder and pelvic floor muscles.

Losing weight can help with your SUI issues. You can start small and switch out sugary drinks with water and processed snacks with fresh fruit and veggies. You can also incorporate a walk into your daily routine.

Try Yoga

Yoga can help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. It’s also great for treating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Quit Smoking

Yet another reason to quit. Quitting smoking can help improve your overall health and decrease your incontinence problems.

Products and Devices

There are also products and devices designed to help treat SUI.

There are absorbent inserts, pads, and undergarments that you can wear to keep you dry. This can be helpful and even life-changing for people who have severe SUI. You can use these products as you seek different treatment options.

Absorbent products can make it so that you regain the confidence to join social events without having to worry about accidents.

There are external urinary devices that you can use such as urethral inserts or pessaries.

You can discuss with your doctor and see which treatment options are right for you.


As a last resort, there is the option of surgery. The common procedure for incontinence is called sling surgery. This is when the surgeon creates a sling to support the urethra and bladder.

There are also noninvasive options you can consider such as injectable bulking agents. This is when your doctor injects synthetic gels around the urethra.

Dealing with Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence can be a stressful condition–but it doesn’t have to be.

There are a variety of treatment and noninvasive options you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and combat the problem.

Want to learn more about treatment options for SUI and other pelvic health issues? Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.


Top 10 Tips to Manage Stress Incontinence


Managing Stress Incontinence

Are you dealing with incontinence due to stress? This can be particularly burdensome on your day to day life. Read on to discover ten tips to help manage stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence

If you struggle with incontinence, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that 33 million women and men in the United States deal with some form of incontinence.

Stress incontinence tends to affect women more, especially women that have been pregnant or have had children.

Managing stress incontinence can seem impossible, but with the right tips and techniques you can help alleviate some of your symptoms.

Curious about how? Read on to learn how to properly manage your stress incontinence.

10 Tips For Managing Stress Incontinence

Before we get started, it’s important to note that you should always speak with a doctor if you feel that you’re experiencing stress incontinence.

A doctor can ensure that the stress incontinence isn’t a sign of a more serious health problem. They can also recommend procedures that could improve your incontinence problems.

These tips can’t cure stress incontinence, but it can help reduce your frequency to go or help prevent leaks. If you’re ready to get your stress incontinence under control, make sure you follow these tips.

1. Have An Emergency Kit

Feeling stressed about your incontinence problems can make your symptoms worse. You may find that having an emergency kit can help you feel less anxious when you’re out.

Pack a spare set of absorbent underwear and a plastic bag in case of an emergency. You may also want to consider bringing a spare pair of pants.

For bonus assurance, try to wear darker colors when you’re out. They’ll be able to reduce the visibility of potential leaks.

2. Stop Smoking

Stopping smoking can improve almost any health problem, and it can help treat your incontinence problems.

Coughing can put unnecessary stress on pelvic floor muscles, and the extra pressure could make accidents more likely.

3. Balance Fluid Intake

Some people with stress incontinence problems may try to drink less fluids to help their problem. But depriving yourself of important fluids could make your bladder problems worse.

If you end up dehydrating yourself, urine gets more concentrated. The highly concentrated urine could end up irritating your bladder and increase your urgency to go.

Still be sure to drink plenty of water, but time it right. Try not to drink a lot of fluids before bed or when you’re about to go out.

4. Schedule Bathroom Breaks

If you find yourself running to the bathroom at inconvenient times, try setting up a schedule for yourself.

Think about when you’re free during the day, and when you’re most likely to use the bathroom.

Some find that it’s easier to plan bathroom breaks around their work schedule. Lunchtime, break times, and down times between meetings are great times to use the bathroom.

5. Start Doing Pelvic Floor Exercises

One of the common causes of stress incontinence are weak pelvic floor muscles. Weak muscles can’t properly tense enough to hold in urine.

Pelvic floor exercises can strengthen important muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum.

The best part about these exercises is that they require no equipment, and can be done at almost any time! The exercises are easy to do, and you can start to see results fast.

6. Do The Right Exercises

We did just spend some time on pelvic floor exercises, but that isn’t the only kind of exercise that can affect your stress incontinence.

High-impact exercise can put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and can increase leakage. Sit-ups can also make you leak by straining your pelvic floor muscles.

Look for exercises that are easy on muscle groups. Consider swimming or pilates if you like to exercise.

7. Lose Weight

Like with smoking, a lot of medical problems can be helped by losing weight.

Extra fat tissue can put extra pressure on your bladder and can increase the urgency to urinate. The extra pressure can also weaken important pelvic floor muscles.

Talk to your doctor about getting on a weight-loss routine with a focus on low-impact exercise.

8. Avoid Caffeine

You may live for your morning cup of coffee, but if you want to treat your stress incontinence, you may want to find another way to start your day.

Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it can increase the need to use the bathroom. Drinking too much caffeine could irritate your bladder and cause you to use the bathroom more than needed.

Be sure to read product labels carefully. Caffeine can show up certain teas, sodas, and other popular drinks.

9. Avoid Alcohol

If you want to alleviate some of your incontinence symptoms, you may want to consider cutting alcohol out of your diet.

Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic and makes you urinate more frequently. Drinking too much alcohol could also make you less “aware” and increase your risk of having an accident.

10. Cut Out Troublesome Food

Some of your favorite foods could be making your incontinence problems worse.

Acidic and spicy food can irritate your bladder and cause you to urinate more. You don’t have to cut these foods out of your diet completely, but you should eat them sparingly.

Also be sure to eat healthy in general. Your body needs the right fuel to properly function, and making sure you’re eating a balance diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals can always help your health.

Bonus: Talk About It

One of the most difficult aspects of stress incontinence has little to do with the bathroom. Many women find the condition difficult to deal with because they’re worried about how other people may view them.

Talk to your friends and loved ones about your condition. Let them know that you’ll need extra bathroom breaks and their support.

If you’re concerned about work, bring up your thoughts with HR. They may be able to speak with your boss about your condition on your behalf, or help you get extra bathroom breaks.

Next Steps

Now that you know how to manage stress incontinence, it’s time to focus on other aspects of your health.

Have you been experiencing vaginal dryness? Follow our tips on how to treat dryness and learn what treatment options are available.

And remember, we’re always here to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to contact us so we can help you.