You’ve had a couple kids. Maybe you’ve recently celebrated the big 4-0. Now, when you cough or laugh, you pee just a little. We’re not telling anyone, but you’re not alone — urinary incontinence affects nearly 20 million U.S. women. Dr. Corie Kovach of Mercy Health-Sheffield Village Obstetrics and Gynecology offers three ways to help curb the urge.
Action plan: Decreased physical and sexual activity weakens the pelvic floor muscles. “When we don’t use it, we lose it,” says Kovach. Kegel exercises, which involve the repeated tightening of the pelvic muscles, can cut down on your time in the bathroom and improve your time in the bedroom (they’re known to intensify orgasms).
Level up: If exercises aren’t enough, the situation may be hormonal. “The tissues of the pelvis are very sensitive to estrogen,” Kovach says. As estrogen levels decline in perimenopause, local estrogen therapy, available in once-a-day tablets, creams or ring form, can be a noninvasive way to manage changing hormone levels and strengthen those tissues.
Electric company: For more advanced cases, surgery can be an alternative, especially ones involving medicine intolerance. InterStim, a small device that uses electric impulses to stimulate pelvic nerves, is implanted in the buttock and boasts a 75 to 80 percent success rate. “People could have a huge improvement in their quality of life,” Kovach says.