While the passage through menopause means freedom from your menstrual cycles, it also brings with it some unwelcome changes, including urinary incontinence. It may be of some comfort to know that more than half of postmenopausal women experience urinary incontinence in some form, but it does little to remedy your problem, which is where can help.
The experienced women’s health care team at Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley, led by Dr. Fernando Otero, understands the social challenges that come with urinary incontinence, and we offer several effective treatment options.
Here, we take a look at why postmenopausal women experience urinary incontinence in such high numbers and what we can do about about the problem.
A new name for some old problems
Recognizing the sheer number of changes that often occur in women who pass through menopause, the medical community opted to group them under one name: genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).
GSM includes symptoms in your vulva, vagina, and lower urinary tract, such as:
- Urinary incontinence
- Sexual dysfunction
- Vaginal dryness
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Irritation, burning, and itching in your inner and outer vaginal tissues
These side effects of menopause are largely due to one issue: the loss of estrogen. When you pass through menopause, your ovaries shut down, which means they not only cease to release eggs, they also stop making estrogen.
Estrogen plays a significant role in the health of your vaginal and urinary tract tissues, so when levels of this hormone drop off, you’re left with thinning tissues and weakened support systems. For example, without estrogen, the lining of your urethra can thin.
As well, with age, the muscles in your pelvic floor, which support your bladder, can begin to weaken.
Types of urinary incontinence
Thanks to the processes we describe above, women are more prone to two types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence due to a weakened pelvic floor
- Urge incontinence (overactive bladder) due to irritated urinary tract tissues
Some women experience mixed incontinence, which is a combination of the two above.
Addressing urinary incontinence
There are several ways in which we approach urinary incontinence, depending upon the severity of the problem and the type of incontinence. For example, if you have stress incontinence, pelvic floor exercises can go a long way toward strengthening your bladder’s support systems.
As well, hormone replacement therapies can increase your levels of reproductive hormones, which can help with incontinence and sexual health, not to mention other menopausal side effects like hot flashes.
We also provide medications that can calm an overactive bladder, and we provide guidance for better bladder control through bladder training.
If your urinary incontinence is due to pelvic organ prolapse (one of your pelvic organs shifts out of place), we can turn to a pessary to add support.
The bottom line? We understand that urinary incontinence is a serious quality-of-life issue, and we work with you to resolve the issue.
If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence as a result of menopause, please contact one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to get help.