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Stress incontinence is the inability to control the release of urine when pressure on the belly muscles increases. This can occur when a person laughs, coughs, sneezes, lifts a heavy object, or jogs.
Increased pressure on the top of the bladder created by one of these actions forces urine past the muscle (sphincter) that normally keeps urine in the bladder. This results in the leaking of urine.
Stress incontinence is a common form of urinary incontinence. Many things may cause changes in the pelvic muscles and supporting structures that lead to stress incontinence. These include childbirth (especially vaginal delivery), low levels of estrogen, nerve or muscle damage from surgery, and being overweight. Some medicines can also cause stress incontinence.
Stress incontinence often responds well to pelvic floor exercises (Kegels). These exercises can help strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine. They involve squeezing the muscles you would use if you were trying not to pass gas or if you were stopping the flow of urine.
Other treatment options may include medicines, surgery, or incontinence pessaries. (An incontinence pessary is a soft, flexible device that is placed in the vagina to compress the urethra and help prevent urine leaks.)
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Avery L. Seifert MD - Urology & Kara C. Taggart MD - Urology