What is light bladder leakage?
To put it simply, light bladder leakage is the involuntary passing of a small amount of urine. It’s the quantity of the loss that differentiates it from medium or heavy incontinence, as it’s usually just a few drops or a small gush.
Although it may feel like it’s just happening to you, it’s thought that nearly half of all women will experience bladder leakage at some stage in their life. Statistics indicate only a third of women experience incontinence, but smaller surveys suggest the problem is more prevalent. It’s a problem some women refuse to admit – even to themselves. This is a shame because as you’ll discover, it can be improved and, in many cases, even fixed.
Triggers and types of light bladder weakness
Light bladder weakness is typically triggered when pressure is applied to a full or nearly-full bladder, and the pelvic floor muscle isn’t strong enough to hold back the expulsion of urine. This muscle, which is like a hammock stretching from the pubic bone to coccyx, supports the pelvic organs and is clenched to control the passing of urine, wind or a bowel movement.
If the muscle is weak and pressure is exerted on the pelvis and bladder, a leak will occur. This is known as stress incontinence
Pressure can be applied from many everyday activities, including:
- Sneezing – with some women particularly suffering in spring with hay fever and other allergies
- Coughing – especially associated with a cold or a persistent smoker’s cough
- High impact exercise – the jarring of running, jumping or skipping can induce a leak. Similarly, if you’ve ever heard women joking about their inability to jump on a trampoline, it’s because of the pelvic pressure this activity induces and the leaks it causes!
- Lifting heavy weights – including weight training at the gym, bags of groceries and even small children
Light bladder leakage can also be the result of urge incontinence where without warning, you have a sudden and urgent need to urinate. If the pelvic floor is weak, you may not have the ability to hold on until you reach a toilet and experience a small leak.
The triggers can also vary and include:
- Food and drinks that are known to irritate the bladder including caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, chocolate, citrus, tomato and chilli
- Dehydration – while this sounds counterintuitive, dehydration causes urine to increase in concentration and agitate the bladder
- A urinary tract infection (UTI)
- An overactive bladder
What causes light bladder leakage?
Like all types on incontinence, light bladder leakage is a symptom of an underlying cause, but not a stand-alone condition.
In most cases, a weak pelvic floor muscle is the culprit. It can be that even with just a small amount of stress on the pelvis, it lacks the strength to withhold urine, whether that’s caused by a high impact activity or another condition like an overactive bladder.
Like all muscles, without specific exercise, the pelvic floor can weaken over time. But there are other reasons why it can suffer strain and damage which is detrimental to its strength, including:
- Pregnancy – carrying the additional weight of a baby places strain directly onto the pelvic floor
- Childbirth – especially a vaginal delivery which requires the baby to pass through the sling of muscle, often causing damage
- Obesity – like pregnancy, carrying extra weight adds extra load to the pelvic floor
- Smoking, or more so, the associated persistent cough
- Straining from on-going constipation
- Regular high impact sports, like running, tennis and netball
- Ageing and the reduction of oestrogen during menopause
In addition to a weak pelvic floor muscle, other factors can be contributing to the problem as well, including poor lifestyle habits, an overactive bladder, urge incontinence, side effects from certain medications and even infection. For these more complex cases, it’s essential to see your doctor for a considered diagnosis and professionally tailored treatment.
How to improve, even fix, light bladder leakage?
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscle is the best way to improve light bladder leakage and the first step towards doing that, is locating the right muscle.
When you’re next on the toilet, try stopping the flow mid-stream, paying careful attention to the muscle you use to do this – that’s your pelvic floor. While this is an excellent exercise to locate the muscle, continually starting and stopping your urine stream isn’t a good bathroom habit, so once you know where it is, desist from doing it again.
When clenched correctly, the muscle should draw in and upwards. It’s the same muscle you use to avoid passing wind in a social situation.
For beginners, start with about five slow, gentle contractions as well as five fast, strong contraction. Aim to repeat this sequence around twenty times across the day. Exercises can be done standing, sitting or even leaning over a table. To see this demonstrated, as well as ensuring correct posture, head to the TENA Beginner video
Once you’ve established out how to execute the exercises correctly, the next issue is remembering to do them! Some women get into the habit of using every red light as a cue while their driving, other use a reminder on the fridge and some even place small, coloured stickers around the house that prompt them to do their exercises when they catch their eye.
You should notice an improvement in your control within two to three weeks.
Once you have the basics mastered, you may wish to try the more challenging exercises that involve contracting and holding your pelvic floor while doing other movements, such as sitting and standing and a series of gentle floor exercises. These have been specifically designed to further strengthen the muscle and improve bladder control. The TENA Intermediate Video will guide you through three, achievable routines.
And finally, the TENA Advanced Video teaches you three low-impact routines that take strengthening to the next level.
Be sure not to rush your progress through these videos, making sure each is comfortably mastered before moving on to the next level. And if you’re not experiencing any improvement, make an appointment with GP and ask for a referral to a Continence Physiotherapist who can check that your technique is correct and develop an exercise plan specifically to meet your ability and needs.
Additional things you can do to improve light bladder leakage
As well as strengthening your pelvic floor, good lifestyle habits will also fast track improvement.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. While it’s true that how much you should be drinking depends on activity, weather, your size, etc., aim for around two litres a day. It will not only help your bladder function but will also assists in keeping your bowel regular
- Avoid food and drink that can irritate the bladder. Cut back on caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks, opting for water instead. Avoid anything citrus or tomato-based, like pasta sauce. You should also skip chocolate, spicy food and dishes containing chilli
- Eat well. Enjoy a diet rich in fibre and whole foods and low in sugar and fat, to stay regular and keep your weight within the normal range
- Stop smoking. The only way to overcome a smoker’s cough that puts undue strain on the pelvic floor is to give up smoking. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do, so see your doctor for assistance
- Exercise. There’s no downside to exercise! It keeps weight off, your bowel regular and the endorphins (feel-good hormone) flowing! Even a daily walk around the block can make a huge difference. Don’t forget to pay special attention in exercising your pelvic floor muscle
- Adopt good toilet habits. Only empty your bladder when it’s full and avoid getting into the habit of going to the toilet ‘just in case’. This can have the unintended consequence of training your bladder to cope less. When you need to open your bowels, go – don’t put it off as holding on can cause constipation and as previously mentioned, the straining associated with that can weaken and damage the pelvic floor and compromise bladder control
When to see a doctor
If you suspect your light bladder leakage is more than just a weak pelvic floor muscle, you should make an appointment and discuss it with your GP. Many women feel embarrassed to talk about incontinence, but it’s extremely common and doctors will be familiar with diagnosis and treatments. You may find this article, Questions for the Doctor useful in preparing for your appointment.
The sudden onset of light bladder leakage, couple with a searing, burning pain when urinating would indicate you have a UTI, which is unlikely to go away on its own, requiring a consultation with the doctor and a course of antibiotics.
Regular medications should be reviewed as they may be causing the problem. And although rare, bladder cancer and the progression of chronic disease could be behind this seemingly harmless, but annoying issue, so it’s always wise to have it checked out.
Managing light bladder leakage
A little light bladder leakage shouldn’t stop you getting on with your day. Even if you’re in the process of strengthening your pelvic floor muscle and acquiring good habits to fix the problem, those little leaks can easily be managed.
The TENA range includes super small TENA Liners, often idea for light bladder leakage. Unlike regular liners, TENA liners are designed to handle the thinner, faster flow of a weak bladder, locking away fluid to leave you feeling dry and secure. Like all TENA products, the range has odour-control, which doesn’t mask smells, but prevents any tell-tale odours from developing.
The products are super thin and super absorbent, are soft and breathable and have BodyShapeTM Fit to minimize bunching.
Head to the TENA Product Finder Tool find the product that best suits your needs and even order FREE samples.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.