“I am overweight and I have problems controlling my bladder. Sometimes I have accidents and it’s so embarrassing! My friend mentioned suggested that I lose weight to help stop the leaks. Is this true – will losing weight improve my incontinence problem?”
Excess weight can add pressure onto your abdominal area, which pushes onto your bladder and causes urine to involuntarily leak out. This type of incontinence is called stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
Fortunately, many studies have found that losing weight actually can reduce incontinence symptoms. The most recent study comes from University of California San Francisco. Researchers found that nearly two-thirds of women who underwent weight loss surgery reported being cured after one year. Incontinence symptoms significantly decreased in those who continued to have problems after surgery.
In another UCSF study (2009), women who were overweight and incontinent reported a 50 percent reduction in leakage episodes after participating in a six-month weight loss program. In comparison, the control group reported a 28 percent decrease in weekly leakage episodes. The women also experienced a decrease in stress incontinence episodes than urge incontinence episodes.
“Our hypothesis is that increased weight puts increased pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor, and when you raise that pressure, you have less of a margin for increased pressure – through a cough, for example – before you lose your urine,” said Dr. Leslee L. Subak, author of both UCSF studies and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCSF. “If you lose weight, you have less pressure on the bladder.”
Losing weight can bring more benefits than just bladder control – it’ll help reduce your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Try to get a little bit of exercise in your daily routine; park a little farther away from the grocery store or take a walk during your lunch break. Other ways to improve stress incontinence include pelvic floor exercises and bladder retraining. To help manage your leaks, try using incontinence pads.