Why Does My Bladder Leak When I Cough?

If this has ever happened to you, you know how embarrassing (and a little scary) a bladder leak can be, especially the first time. Then it begins to occur more frequently. Is it normal as I grow older, and why does my bladder leak when I cough?

Stress Urinary Incontinence

The medical name for leaking a little urine is stress urinary incontinence or SUI. When there is an increase in abdominal pressure and it puts stress on the bladder and urethra, leaks can occur. SUI becomes common with certain movements like when you cough, laugh, sneeze, bend, lift or jump. It may even occur during sex. The leakage won’t happen every time you do one of these things, but when your bladder is full, it is more likely.

More common in women than men, about 22% of women between the ages of 45-64 live with stress urinary incontinence. Many decide to limit social activities due to the embarrassment.

Don’t confuse SUI with an overactive bladder where you get a sudden urge and can’t control urination before you get to a bathroom. This is a different condition.

woman coughing into her fist

What Causes Stress Urinary Incontinence?

There are a number of factors which contribute to SUI. Although men can experience SUI, it is more prevalent in women, and especially those who have given birth. Pregnancy and childbirth weaken bladder muscles and those around the bladder adding to the problem.

In addition, a woman who has given birth vaginally is twice as likely to develop stress urinary incontinence vs. a woman who had a cesarean birth.

Some other significant risk factors for developing SUI include the following:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking which causes frequent coughing
  • Chronic constipation
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Prior pelvic surgery
  • Low back pain
  • Pelvic organ prolapse

Recommended Treatments for SUI

Strengthening your pelvic floor is a first line of defense to help control stress urinary incontinence, so ask Southland Urology for pelvic floor kegel exercises and begin them even before giving birth.

Certain medications can help with SUI, and if this condition is severe, there is surgery.

Avoiding caffeine and practicing timed urination can help decrease the incidence.

Contact Southland Urology at (714) 870-5970 or request an appointment online if you are experiencing leakage you think may be stress urinary incontinence.