How does menopause affect bladder control?

Also called urinary incontinence, bladder control problems are common for women going through menopause. But, there are many options available to treat bladder control problems.

After your periods end, your body stops making the female hormone estrogen. In addition to controlling your monthly periods and body changes during pregnancy, estrogen also helps keep the lining of the bladder and the urethra healthy.

As we age, many factors can weaken the pelvic floor muscles responsible for bladder control resulting in urinary incontinence. This includes damage during pregnancy, childbirth, and weight gain.

What kind of bladder control problems can I develop after menopause?

  • Stress incontinence: Pressure from coughing, sneezing, or lifting can push urine through the weakened muscle. This kind of leakage is called stress incontinence. It is one of the most common kinds of bladder control problems in older women.
  • Urge incontinence: Urge incontinence is another very common bladder control problem. With this condition, the bladder muscles squeeze at the wrong time -- or all the time -- and cause leaks.
  • Painful urination
  • Nocturia: Need to get out of bed to urinate several times a night.

What else can cause bladder control problems in older women?

Menopause may not be the only reason for bladder control problems. There are other medical conditions that can cause incontinence, including:

  • Infections
  • Previous pregnancies
  • Nerve damage from diabetes or stroke
  • Heart problems
  • Medications such as diuretics ("water pills"), tranquilizers
  • Depression
  • Difficulty walking or moving
  • Weight gain

In addition, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and/ or caffeine can contribute to a bladder control problem.