Help for urinary incontinence (leakage) in women

Originally Published: February 23, 2001 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 3, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I have an embarrassing problem that has always held me from going to a doctor. I do not know if it's called incontinence. When I'm out of the rest room, I always find a few drops of urine being discharged later in my dress. This usually occurs when I bend down, or when I sneeze, or sometimes even due to a jerk. I have tried to prevent this many a time by remaining in the comfort room for invariably a long time trying to make sure that I'm done fully, but in vain.

Being a Muslim, I always find it very difficult to offer my prayers due to this. I'm suffering from this problem for a long time. Would you please advise if there is any cure for this? Can some pills treat this or an operation is a must?

Awaiting your prompt response. Thanks & regards.

Dear Reader,

People who experience stress incontinence leak urine when pressure (or stress) is put on the bladder (e.g., while coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting). This type of incontinence is most common in women who've had children. Although stress incontinence is treatable, many people are too embarrassed to ask for help and endure a lifetime of leaking. In having the courage to ask for information and help, you have overcome the biggest obstacle to solving this problem.

Possible causes and treatments of urinary incontinence include:

  • Weak pelvic muscles: Kegel exercises can strengthen and train the muscles that control urine flow, helping to prevent incontinence.
  • Low estrogen levels: Women going through menopause often have low estrogen levels that can cause problems with incontinence. Estrogen replacement therapy can help.
  • Injury to the bladder or urethra: Trauma to the bladder or the urethra (which carries urine out of the body from the bladder) can cause leaking and might need to be repaired surgically.

Because several things could be causing your incontinence, it's important to see a health care provider for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. For more information about urinary incontinence, including details about different types and help for men, contact the following resources:

If you are a Columbia student, you may want to speak with a health care provider. Appointments can be made at Medical Services either online through Open Communicator, or by calling x4-2284. S/he may be able to help you get to the root of your issue, and back on track with your daily life.

Alice