Incontinence in Women

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

As women age, it’s no secret that their bodies change, but some of the changes can seem a little embarrassing. Not being able to make it to the bathroom or leaking urine when you sneeze or laugh are a problems that so many women have experienced, but most choose not to talk about.

Urinary incontinence is an uncomfortable condition and can be life changing, so it can be reassuring to know that you’re not alone if it’s something you are going through.

More than 13 million Americans experience some form of urinary incontinence, and more than 1 in 3 women have a pelvic floor disorder at some point in their lives, which is a common cause for incontinence. Changes in the function of a woman’s pelvic organs (or her pelvic floor) due to the weakening of the muscles beneath the diaphragm are often to blame.

Childbirth, aging, excess weight or a history of frequent urinary tract infections can all play a role in a woman’s likelihood to experience incontinence.

Types of Incontinence
There are two main types of urinary incontinence.

  • Stress incontinence occurs while coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting something heavy.
  • Urge incontinence causes a sudden need to urinate that you cannot control long enough to make it to the bathroom.

“Many women think that incontinence is a normal part of the aging process and just something they need to learn to live with,” says Ali Luck, M.D., a urogynecologist with Henry Ford Health System. “While it does become more common with age, there are many options that can help. Women don’t need to accept it as their ‘new normal.’”

According to Dr. Luck, there are many treatment options available such as:

  • Pelvic muscle exercises (Kegel exercises) strengthen the pelvic floor muscles involved in bladder control. Experts recommend performing 10 reps three times a day.
  • A removable device, called a pessary, can be placed in the vagina to provide additional support for the bladder and urethra.
  • Medications can help resolve uncontrollable bladder contractions.
  • Surgery, including many minimally invasive, same-day procedures.

If you feel like your quality of life has declined due to incontinence, talking to your doctor is the first step to improvement.

Learn more about pelvic health and available resources, visit the Women’s Pelvic Health and Continence Center page at

Dr. Ali Luck specializes in urogynecology/female pelvic medicine, and is board certified in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive surgery. She sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.