Seek medical advice if you develop incontinence after an illness or after taking a new medication, or if incontinence is causing major difficulties in your life.
The inability to control urination. It is sometimes accompanied by extreme urgency or frequency of urination, and if untreated can lead to bladder or urinary tract infections.
Bedwetting in children is also a form of incontinence.
Weakness or incompetence of the structures of the urinary system are the predominant cause of incontinence. This is most common following childbirth, and seems to be due to damage to the nerves during vaginal delivery. If you have given birth by vaginal delivery (i.e. NOT by caesarean section) to a baby of more than 4kg, or if you experienced prolonged pushing during the second stage of labour, you are more likely to develop incontinence.
Some women also become incontinent after menopause or following a hysterectomy. Additionally, incontinence may be a sign of a low-grade, symptom-free urinary tract infection.
Simple actions such as coughing, sneezing or exercising can trigger episodes of incontinence by suddenly increasing the pressure on the bladder.
Incontinence is also a symptom of serious neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis, where it is related to the declining function of the nervous system.
Incontinence is a potential side-effect of many diuretics, sedatives, antidepressants, antihistamines, and other medications. Discuss your concerns about these possibilities with your health care professional.
- Astringent herbs such as Agrimony help to tighten the mucous membranes of the urinary tract and may assist with bladder control.
- The homoeopathic mineral Calcium fluoride (Calc. Fluor. 6x) taken over an extended period may help to improve the integrity of the urinary structures
- Where low-grade infection is causing the incontinence, try the herbs Cranberry, Uva Ursi or Buchu
- Hypericum - this herb can be helpful if the condition is associated with depression
Life Style Factors
Many women benefit from squeezing the pelvic floor muscles during a stressful event such as a cough - this acts against the increase in pressure which causes the urine leakage, and has been shown to reduce incontinence episodes by as much as 80%. The trick is to squeeze the muscles of the urinary and vaginal area and pull them upwards prior to the sneeze or cough, and before lifting heavy items.
Being overweight contributes to the severity of incontinence - maintain your ideal body weight with a low-fat, balanced diet and regular exercise.
Avoid food and drinks containing caffeine, which increases bladder irritability and urinary frequency. Also, alcohol can cause an increase in urination.
Seek treatment for any respiratory conditions, which cause you to sneeze or cough frequently. This can dramatically reduce the impact of incontinence on your lifestyle.
Avoid constipation by maintaining a high fibre diet and regular water intake.
Do pelvic floor muscle exercises (as described above) daily.