by Kim Christopher Mackey, MD, OBGYN – Director of Women’s Health at The Women’s Center at Southwest Health
It’s no surprise that as we age our muscles change and even weaken. This also includes the muscles in your vaginal wall that support your bladder. So it shouldn’t be a surprise either that over 40% of American women suffer from bladder leakage at some point. Those numbers are even higher for women over forty.
Significant stress to the body, such as childbirth, being overweight and even menopause can also damage the vaginal wall. With enough damage or deterioration, the bladder can start to prolapse, or descend into the vagina due to lack of support from the muscles. This prolapse, in various stages, can trigger problems such as difficulty urinating, discomfort, and stress incontinence – or leakage caused by sneezing, coughing, and exertion for example.
Some women also find themselves needing to find a bathroom with little or no warning. This experience is called urge incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB). It’s caused by urinary muscle spasms which make you feel like you have to go even when your bladder may not be full.
There are several treatment options for bladder leakage. The first step is to understand why you are experiencing the issues. If it is due to your bladder prolapsing then the solution may be to put your bladder back into place. This can be done several different ways, including surgical and non-surgically.
Surgical solutions for repairing bladder prolapse include TVT or tension free vaginal tape, hysterectomy if the reason for the prolapse is due to issues with the uterus, and anterior or posterior repair.
One non-surgical solution for bladder leakage caused by prolapse is called a pessary. This is a silicon device used to hold the bladder, uterus, rectum or vagina in place and to treat prolapse, pressure, and incontinence. They come in many different shapes and sizes and will be fit into place by your doctor depending on your need. A pessary placement is usually done during a 15-20 minute office visit. They can be left in for up to four months or removed and replaced daily at home depending on the patient’s comfort level.
If you are experiencing leakage due to an overactive bladder, surgeries and devices may not be needed. There are medications available to help treat and prevent the symptoms of muscle spasms associated with overactive bladder. You may also consider exercises, behavior changes, and non-medicine related treatment that could help alleviate some of your symptoms.
If you’re one of the many women whose lives are affected by bladder issues, know that you’re not alone. At the Women’s Center at Southwest Health, we’re here to help find solutions to get you back to living your fullest life. Give us a call at 608.342.0986.