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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.