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Stress versus Urge Urinary Incontinence

Let's talk a little about "leaking"!

Yes it is common, No its not normal ...

This isn't something that people talk a lot about, though many mothers suffer from leaking.

Leaking is a sign that your muscles "down there" are not doing their .

As I was looking into this, I was surprised to find that there are different types of female urinary incontinence.

The most common types are:

  • Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), and

  • Urge Incontinence (also called overactive bladder - OAB)

And as if it isn't bad enough already, many women often have symptoms found in more than one category (mixed incontinence).

So what is the difference?

Stress Incontinence

Is when "leaking" happens unexpectedly - such as when you do jumping jacks, sneeze or laugh

Urge Incontinence

Is when you "need to go" when really you shouldn't. For example, soon after visiting the washroom, waking up more than twice a night to urinate, or having that sense of urgency that your have to go NOW!

What are the symptoms and why do I have it?

Stress Incontinence

Is when the loss of urine that occurs at the same time as physical activities that increase abdominal pressure (such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, and exercising).


For women with stress incontinence:

  • These activities can increase the pressure within the bladder, which acts like a balloon filled with liquid.

  • The rise in pressure can push urine out through the urethra, especially when the support to the urethra weakens.

  • The result is incontinence caused by the stress.


Some women leak occasionally, for others they have a great deal of leakage even with simple activities such as getting up from a chair.

Urge Incontinence (or OAB)

Is leakage of urine accompanied by a sensation of the need to urinate, or the impending sense that a large leak is going to happen.


Other symptoms include:

  • Frequency—the need to rush to the bathroom, more than 8 voids in each 24 hours.

  • Urgency—that gotta-go now sensation, a powerful urge to urinate, which is difficult to put off.

  • Nocturia—waking up twice or more at night to urinate.


Unlike stress incontinence, OAB usually means a bladder "squeeze" or contraction occurs at an unwelcome time.


Often there may be a trigger such as you may notice severe urgency and leakage when driving into the driveway, placing the key in the front door, running water, or with temperature changes.

So what can be done?

Well first up I would suggest talking to your doctor about it.

Some great leadins to this conversation could be:

  • I am noticing that I am getting up more often at night to urinate ...

  • When I jump I am leaking, is that normal?

  • Sometimes I have an urgent need to go to the toilet again soon after I have just been, and if I don't go I actually start leaking ...

Your doctor should be used to talking to people about this, so once you get the ball rolling it will be much easier.

Other Tips

Please NOTE I am not a doctor so this is not medical advise, just some tips that I know have helped others

Stress Incontinence

With stress incontinence you want to look at pelvic floor exercises (I will be adding some to this site soon). If leaking happens a lot I would suggest looking for a pelvic floor specialist.

Urge Incontinence

  • For some women it is triggers, such as walking in the front door, if you know what these triggers are see if you can change your routine slightly, to retrain your bladder. For example, after walking in the front door, go check the phone for messages.

  • Some things are known bladder irritants (such as caffeine) try reducing or removing (heaven forbid) that from your diet for a while and see if it helps

  • Excess weight can push on your bladder especially if you slouch, losing some weight (if you are over weight) could help

  • Some people have had success with bladder training, try adding 10 - 15 mins on in between bathroom visits if you go frequently. Do this over weeks/months until you find you are not going as regularly

  • Check the amount that you are drinking - water is important and you need to get in your daily quota but don't forget if you are drinking tea, coffee, juice etc on top of that you may be drinking more than your bladder can handle

If you have any other tips or any questions please add them below.

And if you felt that this was a useful article please share!

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