Few symptoms of menopause interfere with normal day-to-day living the way a weak bladder can. To make matters worse, it’s not as easy to talk about with your girlfriends or even your doctor as say, hot flushes or weight gain. While around 35% of women over 60 experience this problem, it’s almost always treatable.
What is menopause incontinence exactly?
There are several different forms of incontinence. The most common form during menopause is known as stress incontinence. A weak bladder leaks urine when you cough, sneeze or lift something heavy. The somewhat less common type of menopause incontinence is urge incontinence, which causes an overall bladder control problem and leads to frequent urination
The causes of menopause incontinence
During menopause, as progesterone levels decrease, the lining of the urethra (the tube that takes urine outside the body) becomes thinner. This, combined with pelvic floor muscles weakened due to age or previous childbirth, can lead to a weak bladder. Another cause often associated with age, although not connected to menopause, is nerve damage from diabetes or a stroke. A weak bladder can also be a sign of a urinary tract or vaginal infection.
Treatment of a menopause incontinence
Since stress incontinence is by far the most common type of menopause incontinence that occurs, the most effect treatment is simply to strengthen the pelvic muscles. You’ve probably heard of using Kegel exercises to strengthen the vaginal walls, but did you know they strengthed the pelvic floor muscles, too? These exercise require nothing more than repeatedly squeezing the pelvic floor muscles and can be done anywhere without anyone knowing you’re doing them. If these exercises alone aren’t enough, there are special cones and balls that can be inserted to help you re-train your pelvic floor muscles.
Although there isn’t much in the way of herbal remedies for a menopause incontinence, one plant that does seem to work to strengthen the urinary tract is horsetail (Equisetum arvense). It’s both an astringent and a diuretic and works to flush irritating toxins out of the urinary system. Saw palmetto and pumpkin seed also seem to help, as does eating yogurt with active cultures.
Progesterone replacement therapy is another approach to consider. Although it’s yet to be approved for treating a weak bladder during menopause, preliminary studies do indicate that hormone replacement therapy can help with menopause-related incontinence problems. It makes sense, after all, since the pelvic floor muscles are sensitive to oestrogen and progesterone. Again, though, because this treatment hasn’t been fully approved for incontinence, talk with your doctor before starting any self-treatment beyond natural hormone creams.
For serious cases of menopause incontinence, medications may be prescribed. These include urinary tract support medication such as tolterodine (Detrol) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
A weak bladder during menopause is one of the most common problem women going through the change of life face. That doesn’t mean your doomed to spend your days within dashing distance of the bathroom, though. Kegel exercises, natural treatments, and in some cases hormone replacement therapy can all help solve this uncomfortable problem.