The change of life can cause changes in your bladder

If you or someone you know is going through menopause, controlling your bladder is a common problem. Don’t worry! There are things you can do to take charge and help make it better.

Why is it happening?

Your bladder may get weaker during menopause because your ovaries stop making oestrogen, the hormone that controls your menstrual cycle. This can cause your vaginal tissue become less elastic, the lining of your urethra to thin and your pelvic floor muscles (which support your urethra and bladder) to reduce.

It can also make your bladder less elastic and overstretched, so that it gets irritated when it fills up with urine and becomes ‘overactive.’ That means it’s more difficult to hold on.

Oestrogen loss can result in vaginal and urethra dryness, which can put you at higher risk of developing a urinary tract infection as a result of normal bowel bacteria moving into the urethra.

In Postmenopausal women, weight gain is common. This then adds extra strain on the pelvic floor muscles, weakening the bladder and creating stress incontinence. Diabetic women have an increased risk of nerve damage known as neuropathy. Some symptoms can be loss of sensation in the bladder, poor or incomplete emptying of the bladder and constipation.

Many women who have given birth and have had damage to their anal sphincter (muscle around the anus) may also find bowel control problems occur with the onset of menopause.

What should I look out for?

The most common problems women face during and after menopause are:

  • Stress incontinence. You might lose a few drops of urine when you’re coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Or you might notice leaking when you’re lifting something heavy or doing something that puts pressure on your bladder.
  • Urge incontinence. The need to urinate comes on fast and unexpectedly. You might not make it to a bathroom in time. This is sometimes called an “irritable” or “overactive” bladder.
  • Nocturia. Some women wake up several times in the middle of the night with an urge to urinate.
  • Painful urination. After menopause, women are more likely to have urinary tract infections (UTIs). They can give you a burning sensation while urinating.

Any of these problems can interfere with your work, social activities, and sexual and personal relationships. It’s important that you don’t ignore them because, without help, they rarely go away and usually get worse over time.

The good news is incontinence during and post menopause can be treated, managed and often cured.

Five things you can do to regain control of your bladder:

  1. Eat well. Extra kilos will put more pressure on your bladder. Maintain a healthy, low fat diet to combat the tendency to put on weight during menopause.
  2. Drink well. Coffee, tea, fizzy and alcoholic drinks may cause your bladder to fill quickly then leak. Also, if you usually wake at night needing to go, cut back on the amount of fluids you drink during the evening.
  3. Exercise regularly. Keeping fit and healthy reduces the potential for weight gain, lowers stress and maintains muscle tone.
  4. Tone up your pelvic floor muscles. Aim to do three sets of twelve Kegel exercises each day. Please refer to the “Work that pelvic floor” article within this newsletter.
  5. Practice good toilet habits. If you make bathroom breaks on a set schedule – say, every hour – it can help you regain control of your bladder muscles. Once you see an improvement, try slowly extending the time you head to the toilet.

For more information, contact our Urology and Continence nurse by clicking here. Alternatively, you can visit the Continence Foundation website.