How common is it?
The Continence Foundation of Australia claims that more than 5 million Australians aged over 15 are incontinent and that 80% of them are women. They also claim that one in three women who’ve had a baby will experience incontinence. Although there is a clear correlation between age and the incidence of incontinence, it doesn’t mean young women don’t leak too.
An Australian study conducted by Monash University looked at 1000 women aged between 16 and 30 and found one in eight experienced incontinence .
Why does it happen?
According to Linda Brubaker professor of female pelvic medicine at Loyal University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, who was interviewed for a WebMed article, incontinence among teens and young women is typically caused by a sports injury.
The article suggests about 20% of female university athletes experience urine leakage while exercising, with women and girls participating in high-impact sports being most at risk. The jolting of activities like running, gymnastics and basketball can damage the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue that support the bladder causing Stress Incontinence
Aside from sport, a weak pelvic floor and hormone imbalance (effecting natural bladder control) can run in the family, causing some young women to be genetically predisposed to continence issues.
The Monash University study also revealed that being sexually active increases the likelihood of incontinence and that being on the oral contraceptive pill can reduce the incidents
Interestingly, the study also found that among this group, around half of the women affected weren’t bothered by their leakage, but the other half were, with many stating that it was a significant problem. Perhaps this is influenced by frequency and quantity.
Better known perhaps, is the impact pregnancy and childbirth can have on bladder control. The additional weight directly on the pelvic floor, the hormone released that helps relax ligaments, and the process of giving birth can all weaken the muscles used to control the bladder, leading to Stress Incontinence.
What you can do
If you’re a young woman experiencing involuntary bladder leakage, strengthening your pelvic floor might be all you need to regain control. TENA has instructional videos for Beginner, Intermediate and Master levels of pelvic floor exercise. And if you are the sporty kind, consider adding some Pilates or yoga classes to your regime. These both have a focus on core strength, which includes the pelvic floor muscles. Once your core is strong, you can engage it while participating in high impact exercise, which will support your pelvic floor and help prevent damage.
On this link, you’ll find a list of healthy bladder habits to adopt and on this one, various food and drinks which may be irritating your bladder and making the condition worse – so you know what to avoid.
If you're pregnant, you may find this article on How to Deal with Incontinence During Pregnancy useful. If you’ve given birth and your continence issues are persisting, you may want to consult a physiotherapist who specialises in continence issues. Speak to your GP about a referral.
Incontinence is always a symptom of an underlying issue, be that a weak pelvic floor, hormone imbalance, infection, a side effect from some medications, etc., and it’s important to identify the cause so, in turn, you know what to address. If you’re unsure about what’s causing your leaking, talk to your doctor.
Conversely, the thing not to do, is ignore it and hope it goes away. You can read about that and other myths on managing incontinence here
The emotional impact
Don’t underestimate the impact of incontinence. For young women in particular, it may affect their body image, self-esteem and even mental health and some women say it interferes with their social life, avoiding gatherings where access to a bathroom may be difficult. Be kind to yourself and know it’s not your ‘fault’. Rather than dwell on the situation, seek help, take charge and in most cases, you can be cured.
Managing incontinence may be easier than you imagine. TENA have a range of products, from liners through to pants, that are specifically designed to manage urine leakage discreetly.
If you’re not sure which product is right for you, head over to the TENA Product Finder which will step you through your condition and suggest product choices. You can then request a FREE sample which will be posted out to you in discreet, unbranded packaging.
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.