Published on October 22, 2019

What Causes Female Urinary Incontinence?

Female urinary incontinence is a common concern especially as people get older. However, it can be embarrassing and can affect women earlier in life than men due to pregnancy and childbirth. But incontinence does not have to be inevitable. If it is affecting your daily life, you can talk to your doctor about things you can do to reduce urinary incontinence.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control. It can range in severity from occasional leaking urine when you cough, sneeze, or exercise to having an urge to urinate that is very sudden and strong and maybe doesn’t allow you to get to a bathroom in time.

There are several types of incontinence

  • Stress incontinence occurs when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, lift something heavy, or do anything that puts pressure on your bladder.
  • Urge incontinence is a sudden, intense feeling of having to urinate that leads to the loss of urine or the need to urinate often even throughout the night.
  • Overflow incontinence is when you have frequent or constant urine leakage due to a bladder that doesn’t empty completely.
  • Functional incontinence is a physical or mental impairment preventing you from making it to the bathroom in time such as arthritis keeping you from being able to unbutton your pants in time.
  • Mixed incontinence is the presence of more than one of these types of incontinence.

What causes female urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is twice as common in women as it is in men and is more common as women age. Pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract are all factors that lead to these higher rates of incontinence for women. Other causes of persistent incontinence include:

  • Aging of the bladder muscle causing a decrease in the capacity to store urine and involuntary bladder contractions
  • Hysterectomy
  • An obstruction along the urinary tract such as a tumor or urinary stones
  • Neurological disorders

There are also certain foods, drinks, medications, and medical conditions that can cause temporary incontinence such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Chocolate
  • Chili peppers
  • Foods high in spice, sugar, or acid
  • Heart and blood pressure medications, sedatives, and muscle relaxers
  • Large doses of vitamin C
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Constipation

Treating Female Incontinence

The good news is, there are lots of treatment options for incontinence. Your doctor will likely recommend treatment based on the type of incontinence you have and your specific situation and may include behavioral techniques, strengthening muscles, medications, or surgery.

The behavioral techniques will likely be the first step as they are the simplest and least invasive options.

  • Bladder training where you try to hold off when you feel an urge to urinate so that you can lengthen the time between trips to 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
  • Double voiding helps you learn to completely empty your bladder by urinating, waiting a few minutes, and going again.
  • Scheduled bathroom trips instead of waiting for the urge to go.
  • Fluid and diet management.

There are a few ways your doctor may suggest strengthening bladder muscles:

  • Kegel exercises
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Biofeedback
  • Physical Therapy

If those techniques are not working well, your doctor may suggest medication, minimally invasive procedures, or surgery which may include:

  • Botox
  • Sling procedures
  • Bladder neck suspension
  • Prolapse surgery
  • Artificial urinary sphincter

Dr. Donald Smith Jr. is a Urologist with Fisher-Titus Executive Urology Specialists in Norwalk, Sandusky, and Bellevue. Dr. Smith and the Fisher-Titus Urology Team will be at the Fisher-Titus Women’s Health Fair on October 26. For more information about this event, follow @FisherTitusHealth on Facebook or visit