Stress Incontinence in Women

In women with stress incontinence, an increase in pressure in the abdomen momentarily puts physical stress on the pelvis, causing urine loss. Activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising and even standing up can cause leakage in women with this type of incontinence.

Treatments include behavioral therapies — such as biofeedback and pelvic muscle exercises — vaginal inserts, electrical stimulation and surgery.

Symptoms include urine loss when performing activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or even standing up.

If you have incontinence, keeping a urinary diary — a record of your daily urination, urine accidents and fluid intake — can help us make the proper diagnosis and decide on the appropriate treatment.

At your first visit to UCSF, your provider will ask questions about your general health, your history of incontinence, past surgeries, illnesses and medications you are taking. The provider will also perform a physical examination, including a pelvic exam. In addition, a urine sample will be tested. If your problem is complex, additional tests may be done at a later visit.

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Behavioral therapies, vaginal inserts, electrical stimulation and surgery are the three treatment options for women with stress incontinence. The objective is to rehabilitate the pelvic floor by building the strength and function of the muscles that support the bladder, urethra and other organs contained within the pelvic region.

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments are simple, self-directed, have no side effects and are often used in conjunction with other treatment options. They have proven effective for many women and work well for certain types of incontinence. They include:

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.