Urinary leakage in women

Les fuites urinaires chez la femme

I can’t stop urinating anymore .” This is what approximately 30% of women in France, prone to urinary leakage , could declare 1 . With more or less apprehension, knowing that 43% of the population in France consider urinary incontinence to be a taboo subject 2 . Unlike men, in whom this health problem mainly occurs after the age of 65, women are confronted with urinary leakage much earlier in their lives. Pregnancies , childbirth and even menopause often cause stress urinary incontinence , the most common form of this disorder for women. But what exactly is urinary leakage? What are the different manifestations and causes of female urinary incontinence ? And what solutions should be adopted to remedy urinary leakage in women ? Let’s stop beating around the bush: detailed answers in this article!

Urinary leakage in women: what is it?

What is urinary leakage?

In common parlance, we say “urinary leakage”. In medical jargon, we speak of “urinary incontinence”. In both cases, it is an involuntary emission of urine. This phenomenon occurs when the body is not capable of correctly ensuring the natural functions of retention (continence) and evacuation (urination) of urine.

Indeed, the normal mechanisms of urinary continence and urination are controlled by the brain, unconsciously and consciously, and provided physically by the different organs, conduits and orifices of the urinary system. The kidneys continually filter the blood, removing waste products in the form of urine. This is collected in the internal reservoir which is the bladder. It is retained there thanks to the relaxation of the bladder muscle, the detrusor, and the contraction of the urethral sphincter and the pelvic floor muscles. The bladder fills gradually, up to a certain threshold, which once reached, triggers the need to urinate. Only when the individual decides, urination takes place: the detrusor contracts; the urethral sphincter and perineum relax; urine is passed through the urethra to the urethral meatus, the external opening of the urethra. A dysfunction of this system can lead to urinary leakage.

Urinary incontinence predominantly female

The percentage of women suffering from urinary incontinence is difficult to determine. The results of various scientific studies are not always comparable, due to significant differences in accepted definitions of the condition, in sampling methods or in the populations observed. In addition, patients prone to urinary leakage rarely consult a healthcare professional for this single symptom. For reasons that are still unclear and little explored, “20 to 50% of affected women do not talk to their treating doctor about their symptoms” 3 .

However, it has been shown that urinary leakage is more common in women than in men, approximately three times more 4 . This health problem affects between 20 and 30% of the French female population 5 . In addition, the occurrence of urinary leakage in women increases with age. More than 40% of women over the age of 70 are affected by the phenomenon 4 . Age is also a factor linked to the appearance of different types of urinary leakage.

Different forms of urinary leakage in women

Three specific forms of urinary leakage particularly affect the female population.

  • Stress urinary incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine occurring following physical exertion, whether significant – heavy lifting, impact sports, etc. – or light, even minimal – sneezing, coughing, laughing, etc. The leak, most of the time of small volume, ranging from a few drops to a few milliliters, is not announced by an urge to urinate. This is the most common type of urinary leakage among incontinent women: 50% suffer from it, all ages combined 6 . It predominates in young women, aged under 50 6 .

  • Urge urinary incontinence is an uncontrolled emission of urine preceded or accompanied by an urgent need to urinate, excluding any possibility of holding back, which can occur at any time of the day or night, unrelated to a physical activity. We also speak of emergency urinary incontinence or overactive bladder incontinence. It is the minority form of female urinary incontinence (10 to 20%), more present in older women (over 50 years) 6 .

  • Mixed urinary incontinence combines the characteristics and symptoms of the two previous types of urinary leakage. It affects around a third of incontinent women, generally aged fifty or over 6 .

Why do women suffer from urinary incontinence?

Urinary leakage in women related to exercise is caused by a sudden increase in abdominal pressure. The relaxation of the urethral sphincter, which closes the neck of the bladder, and the muscles of the perineum favors this type of event. This distension can be explained by:

  • multiple pregnancy or repeated pregnancies;
  • a vaginal delivery requiring the use of suction cups or forceps, or marked by a perineal tear;
  • the drop in estrogen levels associated with menopause, which thins and weakens the tissues of the urethra and vagina;
  • genital prolapse, that is to say the descent of the organs located in the pelvis;
  • a surgical operation on the lower abdomen.

    Urge urinary incontinence is triggered by intermittent and untimely contractions of the bladder, then described as hypersensitive, although it is not completely filled. This can be a sign of an illness: urinary or kidney infection, bladder cancer, neurological disorder (multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, etc.).

    More generally, urinary incontinence is caused by:

    • taking certain medications, such as diuretics;
    • poor lifestyle, including excessive consumption of liquids such as coffee and alcohol;
    • overweight ;
    • smoking.

      How to treat urinary leakage in women?

      As with any health problem, it is essential to consult a doctor. Depending on the age of the patient and the type of urinary incontinence diagnosed, different treatments may be prescribed. In general, these are:

      • perineum and bladder muscle rehabilitation techniques, such as Kegel exercises;
      • medications, for example estrogens applied locally;
      • surgery, with the installation of a so-called suburethral strip, to support the urethral canal;
      • behavioral therapies, to better control the urgent urge to urinate.

        Beyond these medical solutions, managing urinary leakage on a daily basis involves the use of intimate protection, to collect losses day and night. In the case of mild to moderate urinary incontinence, generally related to effort, for young mothers or newly menopausal women, menstrual underwear is an ideal option. Capable of collecting from a few drops to several milliliters of liquid, in the form of panties or shorties , it plays the role of absorbent protection perfectly. In addition to being effective, discreet, comfortable and easy to use, it is nicely decorated, to ease morale a little, and washable, therefore beneficial for the wallet and the environment.

        Urinary leaks in women are common and often disabling. But treatments exist. Innovative devices, such as washable absorbent underwear , also make it possible to live a simpler and more peaceful everyday life. To learn more about feminine intimacy and hygiene, do not hesitate to consult the following articles:

        Written by cd


        1. Shenot, P.J. (2022, May 3). Urinary incontinence in adults . MSD Manual Professional Edition.
        2. The French and urinary incontinence . (2019, February 15). IFOP.
        3. Dumery, S. (2016, March 31). Urinary incontinence: why do 30% of affected women not seek treatment? VIDAL.
        4. The prevalence of urinary incontinence . Taylor & Francis.
        5. Urinary incontinence – symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention . VIDAL.
        6. Incontinence: figures for urinary incontinence in France . (2020, February 18). Sphere Health.