Stress incontinence is a common problem, but it’s not an aspect of aging that you have to live with. Though many women won’t talk about incontinence issues, I urge you to speak to your OB/GYN about your options if you are facing problems with incontinence. In some cases, physical therapy and behavioral changes can help, and new minimally invasive surgical procedures are very successful.
Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles that control the flow of urine are weakened. In women, this weakness is often caused by damage sustained during childbirth, though symptoms may not appear until years after. Physical activity such as heavy lifting, sneezing or even laughing put pressure on the weakened bladder, causing urine leakage. Because of the unpredictable nature of the incontinence, many women begin to lose their active lifestyles, taking part in fewer activities than before and becoming more self-conscious.
For some women, physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and control leakage. Your physician may be able to instruct you in these exercises or refer you to a physical therapist for more help. Physical therapy is the most effective if you follow your physician or physical therapist’s directions exactly, making sure to get your exercises in every day. Losing weight, control your fluid intake and planning visits to the restroom can also help you manage the symptoms of incontinence.
If physical therapy isn’t a good option for you, a minimally invasive tension-free vaginal tape (TVT) procedure can provide relief from incontinence. Using just three small incisions, your surgeon will place a mesh sling below the bladder and urethra, helping to strengthen the muscles in the pelvis and prevent leakage.
TVT typically takes approximately 30 minutes and may not require sedation. Like most minimally invasive surgical techniques, it has a low risk for blood loss, infection and pain. The procedure also has a quick recovery time, with many women going home just hours after surgery, so you can get back to your normal life without worrying about incontinence.
Free yourself from the stress that stress incontinence can cause. Talk to your physician to see if you may be a candidate for physical therapy or minimally-invasive surgery.
Lenny Laureta-Bansil, DO, practices at Hampton Roads OB/GYN Center in Norfolk. She received her medical degree from Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She went on to complete her OB/GYN residency at State University of New York, Sisters of Charity Hospital.
Dr. Bansil is certified in laparoscopic surgery (FLS) and da Vinci robotic surgical system. She has participated in several research studies and is a member of the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Urogynecologic Society and American Osteopathic Association. Additionally, Dr. Bansil was a recipient of the 2012 AUGS Award for excellence in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery and the 2013 AAGL Special Resident in Minimally Invasive Gynecology.