Article: Menopause and Bladder Control

Does menopause affect bladder control?

Image of the pelvic bowl region showing the relationship of pertaining organs.

Yes. Some women have bladder control problems after they stop having periods (menopause or change of life). If you are going through menopause, talk to your health care team.

After your periods end, your body stops making the female hormone estrogen (ES-truh-jun). Estrogen controls how your body matures, your monthly periods, and body changes during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Some scientists believe estrogen may help keep the lining of the bladder and urethra (yoo-REE-thrah) plump and healthy. They think that lack of estrogen could contribute to weakness of the bladder control muscles.

Illustration of a woman in an exercise class
 Good bladder control allows women to lead a fully active life.

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.

Recent studies have raised doubts about the benefits of taking estrogen after menopause. The studies also point to added risks from taking estrogen for many years. No studies have shown that taking estrogen improves bladder control in women who have gone through menopause. Your doctor can suggest many other possible treatments to improve bladder control.

What else causes bladder control problems in older women?

Sometimes bladder control problems are caused by other medical conditions. These problems include

  • infections
  • nerve damage from diabetes or stroke
  • heart problems
  • medicines
  • feeling depressed
  • difficulty walking or moving

A very common kind of bladder control problem for older women is urge incontinence. This means the bladder muscles squeeze at the wrong time--or all the time--and cause leaks.

If you have this problem, your health care team can help you retrain yourself to go to the toilet on a schedule.

What should you do about bladder control after menopause?

Talk to your health care team. You may have stress or urge incontinence, but other things could also be happening.

Medicines and exercises can restore bladder control in many cases. Your doctor will give you a checkup first.

What treatments can help you regain bladder control?

Illustration of a woman entering a bathroom
    Teaching your bladder a new routine can reduce urge incontinence.

It depends on what kind of bladder control problem you have. Your health care team may also recommend some of the following:

  • limiting caffeine
  • exercising pelvic muscles
  • training the bladder to hold more urine

If these simple treatments do not work, your health care team may have you try something different. These treatments might include

  • biofeedback
  • electrical stimulation of pelvic muscles
  • a device inserted in the vagina to hold up the bladder
  • a device inserted directly into the urethra to block leakage
  • surgery to lift a sagging bladder into a better position

What professionals can help you with bladder control?

Professionals who can help you with bladder control include

  • your primary care doctor
  • a gynecologist (guy-nuh-CALL-uh-jist): a women's doctor
  • a urogynecologist (YOOR-oh-guy-nuh-CALL-uh-jist): an expert in women's bladder problems
  • a urologist (yoor-ALL-uh-jist): an expert in bladder problems
  • a nurse or nurse practitioner
  • a physical therapist

Points to Remember

  • Some women have bladder control problems after they stop having periods.

  • Exercising pelvic muscles can help you maintain or improve bladder control.

  • Treatment depends on the type of bladder control problem(s) you have. Talk to your health care team to find the treatment that's right for you.


Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Cache Date: December 10, 2004

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