What causes stress urinary incontinence?

  • Pregnancy - carrying the weight of the baby puts additional stress on the pelvic floor
  • Childbirth - a vaginal delivery stretches, damages and bruises nerves and muscles of the pelvic floor
  • Smoking - smokers often develop a chronic cough, which puts pressure on the pelvic floor
  • Menopause - oestrogen levels are lower, which weakens the pelvic floor muscles and reduces blood flow and tissue viability around the urethra
  • Obesity - being overweight results in increase pressure on abdomen and pelvic floor
  • Hysterectomy - the surgery carries the risk of damage to the pelvic floor
  • Prostate, bladder and urethral surgery in men - damage to the closing mechanism of the bladder either through surgery or trauma can result in involuntary urinary leakage

Stress urinary incontinence is the most common type of leakage affecting approximately three million people in the UK alone.

Urine leaks when there is sudden extra pressure on the bladder, typically during coughing, laughing, jumping, running or any type of physical exercise. The leakage occurs because the closing mechanism of the bladder has become insufficient.

In women this often means that the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, have weakened and cannot cope with the extra pressure. In men stress leakage is rare and is usually the result of an injury at the time of prostate or bladder surgery.

The following pages will present common treatment options to restore bladder control in both men and women.

Stress urinary incontinence