Urine leaks when coughing, sneezing or running

Many women believe that urinary incontinence is a problem for older women. Friend, this is a true myth, a misconception that causes many women that experience urine leaks when coughing, sneezing or running feel embarrassed and prevents them from talking about it. And there you have it! That’s how a very common health problem, which we can all prevent and improve, becomes a taboo that causes insecurities in many women.

Yes, even though urine leakage isn’t a common topic of conversation over dinner with friends, it is something that many many women have. One study reports that half of women in the USA develop some kind of urinary incontinence in their lifetime.

If you have experienced urine leaks when coughing, running, dancing or laughing while your best friend tells you her last hilarious dating story, get to know the causes and know how facing it will help you avoid them and be more at ease with it. Let’s break the taboo!

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is, essentially, loss of bladder control that can cause involuntary urine leakage. Incontinence is not a disease in and of itself, but rather the result of other problems, which can be related to the muscles of the pelvic floor and the pelvic organs (more often than not) or having other primary causes such as neurological problems.

Types of urinary incontinence

There are various types of urinary incontinence. The most common are:

  • Stress urinary incontinence: This is the technical name for the urine leaks we have when coughing, sneezing, running or laughing. That is, they occur in movement and in moments of intra-abdominal pressure.

The cause of stress incontinence use to be the weakening or dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the organs found in the pelvis, and because they are not strong enough, they don’t correctly perform their function of continence and cushioning of the pressure on the bladder (for example the abdominal pressure that we experience during a sneeze). 

You can prevent, improve and solve these urine leaks with a  pelvic floor rehabilitation plan. At B-wom we can help you! However, the cause may also be different, so it is important that you consult with a pelvic floor specialist if you do not improve.

  • Urge urinary incontinence: it consists of an urgent and sudden need to urinate that can be accompanied by leakage if you do not reach the bathroom on time (an “Oops” moment). This happens due to the muscles of the vagina tightening or contracting at the wrong times, regardless of the quantity of urine that there is in the bladder, which causes the need to urinate. The cause of these contractions can stem from nerves or changes in the bladder. If you have these types of symptoms we recommend that you consult with your doctor so you can be diagnosed.
  • Mixed urinary incontinence: a combination of the two problems.

There are also types of incontinence with psychological or neurological causes, but in this post we want to focus on the first type: Stress urinary incontinence, which is the most common type.

Why does the pelvic floor weaken?

  • The main cause for the weakening of the pelvic floor is excessive impact or pressure on it over a long period of time that makes it ‘stretch’. Examples where the pelvic floor receives this excess:

Practicing an impact sport such as running or horseback riding.

Lifting heavy weight

Chronic cough

Chronic constipation

Pregnancy (from the weight of the baby)

Bad posture: Being hunched over creates a continuous pressure on our pelvic floor.

  • Hormonal changes, for example in Menopause
  • Damage to the muscles and/or tissues of the perineum, for example a tear during childbirth.   
  • Surgeries in the pelvic zone
  • Stretching of a nerve or ligament


Options for treatment of urine leakage

Fortunately, having episodes of urinary incontinence does not mean that you have to stay at home in your yoga pants to avoid an accident 😉 There are many non-invasive treatments that you can put into practice to prevent, avoid or improve that  urine leaks. Here are a few:

  • Working your pelvic muscles: As explained before, the pelvic floor is a muscle that supports your bladder and that performs the function of evacuation thanks to its capacity to contract and relax.

Training your pelvic floor will make it work better so that it can handle episodes of higher abdominal pressure and avoid urine leaks when coughing, running or laughing, for example. The pelvic floor can be trained with Kegel exercises (on B-wom you will always find exercises adapted to your needs!), Biofeedback devices or Ben wa balls. Always remember to consult with a professional before using those last two.

  • Avoid bladder irritants – such as caffeinated drinks, sugar, or spicy or acidic foods. Alcohol and caffeine increase the production of urine, which is why it is better to avoid them.
  • Modify physical activities – for example, if you tend to have leakage with physical activities like running or jumping, it will be better to replace them with exercises without pressure, like yoga or Pilates, swimming or cycling.  
  • Quit smoking – women that smoke are more prone to develop some urinary incontinence for two reasons:  one is that tobacco is also a stimulating substance, and the other is the fact that smoking increases chronic coughing, which is one of the main causes of weakening of the pelvic floor! In addition to this, quitting smoking is always a good decision for your health!  

If these non-invasive treatments do not work, there are other options that may solve or relieve urinary incontinence, such as surgery or medication.

As you can see, you can face urine leaks changing some habits and with pelvic floor phyisical therapy exercises, which can be just 10 minutes a day!

If you have urine leakage, don’t be ashamed of, talk with your doctor and with your friends. Let’s start the conversation! You will surely find many women with the same problem.  Perhaps you can help them by sharing this post and the B-wom app so that they can care for themselves through the habits and exercises that we provide in the app.

Start caring for yourself with B-wom and share to break the taboo of incontinence!

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