Decreased levels of Oestrogen during menopause can cause a thinning of the urethra lining leading to menopause incontinence.
Pelvic muscles may weaken with aging, specifically around the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. Often known as "pelvic relaxation," some women see an increased risk of urinary incontinence during menopause.
Menopause incontinence can cause an involuntary leak of urine, also produced by vaginal childbirth and increased age.
There are two types of menopause incontinence:
- Stress incontinence caused by weak pelvic floor muscles
- Urge incontinence caused by overly active or irritated bladder muscles
Symptoms can include leakage of urine with coughing or sneezing, or the frequent and sudden urge to urinate. Urinary incontinence can also happen during sex, affecting a woman’s libido, and can sometimes be avoided by urinating before intercourse.
The risks of menopause incontinence can be significantly decreased with exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, or medications and surgical treatments.
Why Does Menopause Cause Incontinence?
As your ovaries begin to stop making oestrogen your menstrual cycle is affected. This change creates hot flushes, night sweats, and mood swings along with bladder control issues in some cases.
Some possible shifts that can lead to menopause incontinence include;
- The vaginal tissue becomes less elastic
- The lining of the urethra thinning
- The pelvic floor weakening
Other Causes Of Incontinence
It is important to note that menopause is not the only cause of incontinence in older women. Muscles can naturally weaken as they age or as a result of issues related to childbirth.
Bladder problems can also be the results of diabetes, multiple sclerosis, nerve damage, various medicines and antidepressants which can cause the bladder not to drain properly.
Incontinence can be caused by a myriad of reasons not directly linked to menopause including;
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal infection or irritation
- Various medicines which can cause bladder control problems for short periods
If you find you have been suffering from incontinence for a more extended period of time, this may be the result of;
- Weakened or overactive bladder muscles
- Weak pelvic floor muscles
- Nerve damage
- Pelvic organ prolapse, during which pelvic organs including the bladder, rectum, or uterus shifting into the vagina causing the bladder and urethra to leak urine
Some women may experience temporary incontinence which can occur due to particular dietary elements such as specific food and drink. Diuretics can stimulate the bladder thus increasing the volume of urine, including;
- Decaffeinated tea and coffee
- Carbonated beverages
- Artificial sweeteners
- Corn syrup
- Foods high in spice, sugar or citrus
- Medications including blood pressure medications, sedatives, and muscle relaxants
- Large doses of B and C vitamins
The more common type of incontinence occurs because of changes in hormone levels. The oestrogen levels reduce which affects the health of the bladder and the urinary system.
Oestrogen has a direct link to the health and the strength of the bladder and the lining of tissue that ensures bladder strength. As oestrogen levels reduce, the bladder is unable to hold as much urine causing incontinence.
The cause of incontinence will vary the treatment options available, as will their effectiveness.
Vaginal oestrogen can be provided as a pessary or cream, which can reduce the frequency of the need to urinate strengthening the structures of the bladder and urethra.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
As mentioned earlier, exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can often be recommended by a physiotherapist to help in some instances.
Avoiding coffee and alcohol along with certain foods that are high in sugar or citrus can assist.
More Frequent Visits to the Bathroom
Releasing the pressure on your bladder with more regular visits to the toilet avoid the bladder filling up decreasing the chances of experiencing incontinence.
In severe cases, medical professionals may recommend a sling. This requires an operation where a mesh is placed near the bladder, keeping it closed during jarring activities such as coughing or sneezing.
Your family doctor or a urologist can perform a pelvic exam to test to see if an infection is causing your incontinence problems, which will determine the most suitable range of treatment options.
Testing can include;
- A physical urine stress test that fills your bladder with water to test for urine leaks
- A bladder ultrasound, an imaging test to see how well your bladder empties
- Cystoscopy, an examination that involves a thin, lighted tube with a lens to view your urethra
Symptoms Of Menopause
Menopause incontinence can be embarrassing, causing woman’s to feel uncomfortable in social situations or less confident in leaving the house. As with this and many other symptoms of menopause, there is help available.
It is important to be aware of other issues that may arise during the later stage in a women’s life. Other menopause symptoms that women may experience along with incontinence can include:
- Hot flushes or sweating
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- An irregular period or spotting
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry skin and hair
- Decreased sex drive
The Australian Menopause Centre are Here to Support You
If any of the symptoms of menopause listed above including incontinence are causing issues for you, or you have any questions or concerns, the Australian Menopause Centre can offer support, information and guidance. Contact our professional and dedicated team and our knowledgeable staff will note your symptoms and determine the appropriate treatment options available.
A consultation with our staff means that your medical history will be reviewed so that we can prescribe any necessary medication or other treatment options to help improve your quality of life and offer some much needed relief. Our team, including our experienced menopause doctors feature a range of general practitioners and gynaecologists who specialise in treating hormonal imbalances in women.
If incontinence or any other symptoms of menopause are causing stress or affecting your day-to-day life, we can help, and you need not suffer in silence. The Australian Menopause Centre offers a well experienced and knowledgeable team who put patient care at the forefront of everything we do; we care about your wellbeing and quality of life. Feel free to contact us on 1300 883 405 and begin your journey to lessen the suffering of menopause. We have assisted over 80,000 Australian women who have experienced a range of menopause symptoms, and we look forward to helping you with yours too.