Changes in hormones can often lead to the development of incontinence for men and women alike. Learn more about how hormones and incontinence are closely related.
What is The Link Between Hormones and Incontinence?
What is the Link Between Hormones and Incontinence?
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If you are dealing with incontinence, you are probably aware that incontinence and hormones frequently have a strong relationship, with fluctuations in hormones potentially contributing to incontinence issues.
This can be particularly true for women who may experience incontinence as a result of perimenopause or menopausal changes.
Incontinence is a medical issue that can impact the urinary, bowel, and gastrointestinal systems. Urinary incontinence refers to the involuntary leakage of urine due to a loss of bladder control, and it can manifest in several forms, such as stress, urge, overflow, functional, or mixed incontinence.
Meanwhile, bowel incontinence, also known as faecal incontinence, involves unintentional bowel movements, including leaks of faecal matter, which can result in further complications such as diarrhea and constipation.
All of these forms of incontinence can be the result of a wide variety of root causes. However, given how important hormones are to regulating our daily bodily functions, specific hormonal issues can often lead to a rise in the frequency or intensity of incontinence instances.1
How hormones impact our urinary systems
Certain hormones play a significant role in both the development and management of incontinence, including oestrogen and progesterone. As these hormones are responsible for maintaining the health of the urinary system, changes in their levels can lead to alterations to the ability of the bladder, urethra and pelvic muscles to do their job.
Menopause brings with it a decrease in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone. This can lead to weakened pelvic muscles and less elasticity in both the bladder and urethra.
The result of these changes: it’s much more difficult for them to control the regular flow of urination. This often marks the beginning of incontinence issues for women experiencing menopause.2
It’s not just women who experience incontinence changes related to hormones. Hormones also play a key role in developing and managing incontinence in males, with testosterone working to maintain the health of the urinary system. Much like the way oestrogen and progesterone support the healthy daily functioning of a female urinary system, testosterone helps to maintain strong, elastic muscles and tissues in male urinary systems.
As men age, they can also experience a decrease in natural hormone production. Lowered testosterone levels can result in weakened pelvic muscles, and a loss of elasticity in the bladder and urethra can impact their ability to control urination. Men may also experience an enlarged prostate as a result of lowered testosterone levels, which can also be a culprit for ongoing incontinence issues.
How hormones relate to different types of incontinence
With a wide range of incontinence types, it’s no surprise that our hormones can play a role in many of these specific incontinence experiences. These include:3
- Stress incontinence - this form of incontinence can often be tied to hormonal changes that may arise in menopause, with decreasing oestrogen levels impacting the strength of pelvic muscles (as well as the bladder and urethra’s elasticity). It’s common for women to experience incontinence episodes when coughing, laughing or sneezing as a result of this decreased hormonal support.
- Urge incontinence - since decreased oestrogen levels can also result in overactive bladders, individuals experiencing urge incontinence may find themselves suddenly needing to urinate quite urgently. If they cannot reach a bathroom in time or hold the urge in, this can result in an incident of incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence - when the bladder isn’t able to empty itself completely, this can result in overflow incontinence. The weakening of bladder muscles due to decreased oestrogen or testosterone levels can commonly result in overflow incontinence for men and women alike.
- Functional incontinence - as our hormones experience a wide range of changes through the ageing process, functional incontinence can be a common occurrence. A reduction in our physical or cognitive ability to recognise bladder and bowel urges can lead to increased incontinence activity.
Health professionals can provide necessary support in diagnosing the type of incontinence you or a loved one is experiencing. When there’s clarity about the kind of incontinence at play, finding the right tools and treatments becomes a more effective process. It is important to seek medical assistance if incontinence becomes a recurring experience.
Seeking an incontinence diagnosis for hormone-related incidents
Your GP is the first port of call when it comes to seeking an incontinence diagnosis that may arise from changes to your hormones. This process will generally begin with a physical examination, as well as a thorough review of the patient’s medical history. Your GP will seek further information from you about your symptoms, as well as how often incontinence occurs. By keeping careful note of your incontinence experience, you can help with the overall diagnosis process, providing the necessary insight your health professional will need to build an accurate diagnosis.
They may also carry out additional tests that can rule out any infections or other potential underlying conditions that may contribute to incontinence.
Once the cause of your incontinence has been identified, your GP will assist with providing treatment options suitable for your individual needs and health considerations.
These may include:
- Changes to lifestyle factors, including weight management or smoking habits
- The introduction of pelvic floor exercises
- Medications that can improve bladder control
- In some cases, surgery may be recommended
A number of natural remedies can also be useful in minimising the impact of incontinence on your daily wellbeing. By taking a long-term approach to identifying the cause of your incontinence and finding effective ongoing treatments, you can assess the options available to you, looking for those that are suitable for your individual incontinence experience and health needs.
Managing incontinence on a day-to-day basis
Managing incontinence on a daily basis doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or restrictive. With the right team of medical practitioners, an individualised treatment plan and high-quality incontinence resources, you can navigate much of your everyday life without allowing incontinence to disrupt your work and play.
If you’re new to this experience, it’s wise to review some easy everyday tips that can make a noticeable difference in your incontinence occurrences.
- Using a regular bathroom schedule. Rather than waiting for the urge to use the bathroom, it can be wise to use the bathroom at regular intervals. This can reduce the likelihood of incontinence occurrences as a result of hormonal changes that may reduce the body’s ability to communicate the urge to ‘go’.
- Making use of absorbent products. Incontinence pads or pants can help to manage incontinence occurrences both at home and in public. ConfidenceClub’s wide range of incontinence products takes the guesswork out of finding the right tools for the task at hand. With an ‘It Fits Or It’s Free’ guarantee, every customer is able to find the right products for their needs that are discreetly delivered to their doorstep.
- Monitoring symptoms. By paying close attention to your incontinence symptoms, you can continue to refine your continence management approach. Keeping a diary of these symptoms can help you to identify certain triggers (such as foods, drinks or the time of day), allowing you to develop a treatment plan that accounts for these triggers.
Above all, it’s important to remember that incontinence is a common condition experienced by up to 1 in 4 adult Australians. With appropriate strategies, an understanding of the role changing hormones play on incontinence and adequate support, you can find the approach you need to live life to the fullest.
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We hope this article has helped shed some light on what to expect regarding the link between hormones and incontinence.* Why not check out our other helpful articles while you’re here?
*This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Incontinence can be caused by a variety of underlying health conditions and is best diagnosed and treated by a healthcare professional. If you are experiencing incontinence, we strongly recommend that you consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs.
1 Robinson, D., Toozs-Hobson, P., & Cardozo, L. (2013). The effect of hormones on the lower urinary tract. Menopause international, 19(4), 155–162. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754045313511398
2 Urinary incontinence in women (no date) Urinary Incontinence in Women - Australasian Menopause Society. Available at: https://www.menopause.org.au/health-info/fact-sheets/urinary-incontinence-in-women
3 The 4 Types of Urinary Incontinence and How They Are Diagnosed: Virtuosa GYN: OB-GYNs. Virtuosa Gyn. Available at: https://www.virtuosagyn.com/blog/the-4-types-of-urinary-incontinence-and-how-they-are-diagnosed