Weak bladder

One in three women over the age of 40 suffer from an increased urge to urinate. For most of these women, this is the result of an over-active bladder. The muscles of the bladder contract before the bladder is completely full. You then feel an uncontrollable urge to urinate.

Incontinence (loss of urine)

If you drink approximately 1.5 litres of water per day, you normally need to go to the toilet four or five times each day. With an over-active bladder, or increased urge, the number of times you need to urinate increases considerably. Women who suffer from incontinence need to go to the toilet between 10 and 20 times each day. Often there is unintentional loss of urine during exertion or when you cough or sneeze. You may also lose some urine at night.

How does incontinence occur?

This complaint arises if the transmission of sensory stimulation between your bladder and your brain changes. This causes you to contract your bladder involuntarily and urine is forced out of your bladder. Involuntary loss of urine during exertion or when you laugh, cough or sneeze can have a similar cause and often occurs because the bladder has become weaker with age.

What causes a weak bladder?

The tissues surrounding the urethra become more flaccid due to the decrease in the quantity of estrogen available. This makes it more difficult to control the urge to urinate. Emptying your bladder fully also becomes more difficult. This can lead to a bladder infection.

Because of changes in the levels of hormones in your body during menopause, the mucus membranes in your urinary tract become thinner and muscle tension decreases. This makes it easier for bacteria to get into the bladder and cause a bladder infection.

What can you do?

An over-active bladder can be treated. However, few women discuss this issue with their physician or a healthcare professional. Many women over the age of 50 view unintended loss of urine as something that is simply part of getting older. Even if this were the case, there's still something you can do about it. Buying panty liners or pads is not a solution. So go to your physician and discuss your complaints.

Want to learn how to cope with other symptoms? Get expert advice for the most prevalent menopausal symptoms.