Urinary Incontinence is a common condition which affects 14million people in the UK, and twice as many women than men. 1 in 3 women over the age of 35 will be affected by incontinence at some point during their lifetime, but it can occur in younger age groups too. Here are seven causes of incontinence if you’re under twenty years old.
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence refers to the times where you experience accidental urine leaks from time to time. The two main types are stress incontinence, where the bladder is put under excess pressure, and urge incontinence, where you feel the sudden and very urgent need to use the loo.
Why does stress incontinence occur?
Stress incontinence can occur due to a variety of reasons- including pregnancy (where the growing uterus places pressure on the bladder), childbirth and the natural ageing process.
Seven causes of incontinence in younger people
Stress incontinence can also occur due to a range of other reasons, not including pregnancy, childbirth or the ageing process. So if you’re leaking pee now and then and none of the above applies to you, you might be confused about what you’re experiencing.
Here are seven potential causes of stress incontinence that could be to blame.
Weakening of pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles located in the pelvis that stretch from the front at the pelvic bone to the back at the tailbone. They also expand either side of the sitting bones. They’re made of layered muscles that have openings- the vagina, anus and urethra.
The pelvic floor muscles work to support the organs located in the pelvic area (bladder, bowel and internal reproductive organs) and control the normal function of theses organs too. But they can become weakened, and if this happens they’re not able to perform their function as well.
Weakening of the pelvic floor muscles is the most common reason why stress incontinence occurs.
Some people find that intense physical activities can result in urinary incontinence. Studies such as this one have shown that women who take part in high intensity exercise are more like to experience urinary incontinence. One hypothesis for why this happens is reported to be "increased intrabdominal pressure stretching the ligaments and fascial tissues of pelvic floor muscles, leading to permanent damage of the tissue (source)."
These findings are supported by this further study, which also found that high intensity exercise can result in urinary incontinence of younger women. But this same study also notes that: “Mild to moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, decreases both the odds of having and the risk of developing urinary incontinence.”- in other words, don’t give up on the gym altogether.
Finding the balance is key, and if you do take part in sport and experience leaks when you do, speak to your GP for advice on treatment options.
Poor sleep hygiene
We cannot stress this enough. Your body needs sleep, and lack of it can affect almost every aspect of your health and wellbeing. Being well rested and getting enough restorative sleep will help to protect bodily functions and bladder health- so make it a priority.
Poor toilet habits
Holding in your pee for long periods of time is not good for your bladder, so if this sounds familiar, stop. Equally, forcing yourself to go ‘just incase’ can be just as bad- so if this is something you do (a throw back from childhood for many of us!) then it’s another habit you need to break. Both habits can put pressure on your bladder and make urinary incontinence symptoms worse, so listen to your body. Go when you need to go, and always empty your bladder thoroughly too.
Alcohol is a diuretic- meaning it accelerates the production of urine, and this can place pressure on the bladder. Excess urine can also lead to dehydration and your pee can become more concentrated- you’ll notice it’s darker in colour when you go. This concentrated pee can be bad news for your bladder, causing irritations and potentially leading to urinary tract infections (UTIs) which again isn’t great for bladder health.
Try drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume, maintain good toilet habits and avoid binge drinking. Speak to your GP for advice if you feel alcohol is a problem for you.
According to this study, what you can eat can also play a role in bladder health, stating that there’s a “strong association between obesity and urinary incontinence in young women”. This is backed up by this 2009 study, which found that the odds of a person developing urinary incontinence increased by 30-60% alongside an increase in body mass. And this study found that overconsumption of energy is “significantly associated with higher odds of urinary incontinence,” concluding that “Behavioural and lifestyle modifications, including weight loss, remain the preferred first line of treatment for most urinary incontinence patients.”
So we know that being overweight can, in some cases, lead to incontinence- but does what you eat have an impact too?
According to the NHS, some foods can irritate the bladder and lead to a worsening of incontinence. They advise to avoid spicy or acidic foods and to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Alcohol and caffeine can also be bad news for your urinary health, and if you suffer with nocturia (waking up to pee frequently) you should avoid excess fluids before bed.
Sorry, but it’s true. Sexual activity could potentially lead to urinary incontinence, for a couple of reasons. Most commonly, it occurs due to contracting an infection after sex, such as Cystitis.
Cystitis is a urinary tract infection, which is caused by bacteria spreading to the urethra (this can happen during sex), and while it’s a common and very easily treated UTI, it can lead to incontinence in some cases.
Like cystitis, some STIs could also lead to incontinence too. If you think you might have an STI, make an appointment to see your GP for advice. If left untreated, STIs can lead to more complications that can have lasting effects (such as pelvic inflammatory disease), so it’s really important to get checked out as quickly as possible.
If you’re sexually active, keep safety at the forefront every time you’re intimate with your partner. Always maintain good genital hygiene (especially before sex, as this will help to prevent bacteria passing to the urethra) make sure you empty your bladder after sex, and avoid contraception with spermicide as this can also increase the risk of developing a UTI.
It’s worth noting that some women experience incontinence during sex too. Don't worry if this has happened to you- it’s probably happened to some of your friends too, we just don’t talk about it much.
Just as laughing, coughing or jumping can put excess pressure on the bladder, vaginal penetration and climax can also have the same effect.
If you’re at all concerned about incontinence during sex, or you think you might have a UTI or STI, make an appointment to discuss your symptoms with your GP.
Let’s get this straight. If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, you are not alone. And you do not have to just put up with it, either. There are treatments available to you to help you manage your symptoms and in most cases, pelvic health can be restored. Speak to your GP about your treatment options.
Pelvic floor exercises are the best way to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong and healthy- and they can be done anywhere and at any time. You can also attend a yoga or pilates class to help keep your core strong- check out this post on the best yoga positions to try for the pelvic floor.
In the meantime, we’re here for you. Our new Drytech™️ incontinence pants are designed to hold up to 50ml pee, so if light leaks are spoiling your day, they might just be your new best friend. Wear them like a normal pair of pants, leak if you leak, but stay dry, fresh and confident.
Featuring our patented stretch technology, one pair fits up to four sizes and is treated with Polyigene OdourCrunch™️ to keep odours at bay, and Polyigene StayFresh™️ antibacterial to prevent infection. They look just like normal pants, too.
Is it normal to leak urine in your 20s?
Stress incontinence is less common in the under 20s, but there are several reasons why this could happen. Speak to your GP about your concerns and to discuss your treatment options.
Why do I accidentally leak pee?
The two main types of incontinence are stress and urge. Stress incontinence happens when the bladder is placed under excess pressure and the pelvic floor muscles are unable to support its proper function. This presents as leaking when you laugh, cough, or jump. Urge incontinence is where you experience a sudden and very urgent need to pee, and sometimes it leaks out before you’re able to get to the loo.
The most common causes for urinary incontinence are pregnancy, childbirth and normal ageing. However, other factors scan play a role too- such as sports, diet and exercise, vaginal and bladder infections, poor sleep habits, poor personal hygiene, holding pee in and sexual activity. Speak to your GP to discuss your symptoms.