Stress incontinence is an accidental leakage of urine during physical activity or exertion, for example:

  • Coughing, laughing or sneezing
  • Exercising, particularly jumping
  • Lifting
  • In severe cases, getting out of bed, walking, or standing up.

It is the most common form of urinary incontinence in women. Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles that control your urine flow become weak.6 The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and urethra (the tube that allows urine to pass from the bladder out of the body) and the urinary sphincter (a valve-like muscle around the opening of the bladder) squeezes to prevent urine from leaking through the urethra.

When these two muscles are weakened, a small amount of urine may leak out involuntarily when pressure is placed on your bladder from movements that apply force on the abdominal and pelvic muscles.

Your pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter may lose strength because of childbirth (in women), injury to the urethra area, and surgery in the pelvic area or the prostate (in men).

It is quite different from urge incontinence, which is the unintentional loss of urine caused by the bladder muscle contracting, usually associated with a sense of urgency.

Stress incontinence problems in women may increase around the time of menopause and thereafter.

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