Do you pee when you cough?
If you answered yes, it's likely you've got stress urinary incontinence (SUI). The good news is that you’re not on your own—9 million people in the UK have some form of SUI (1). And because it’s often an embarrassing and taboo subject, there's probably a lot more people out there with bladder leaks who are yet to be diagnosed.
Both men and women can have SUI, although it tends to be more common in women with one-third of women in the UK experiencing SUI (1).
Your diagnosis of SUI doesn't have to be the end of your story. Did you know that strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can put an end to your bladder leaks?
In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at what causes you to pee when coughing and how to put an end to those pesky leaks.
What causes a weak bladder when coughing?
There are many different causes of urinary incontinence, and one of the most common causes is a weak pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscle is the shape of a hammock that runs from the frontal pubic bone to the base of the spine and sits below the bladder, uterus, and bowel. The pelvic floor muscles give you the control you need when you have a wee or poo. But if the pelvic floor muscle is weak due to damage (more on this in a bit), when you cough it can’t provide enough support to keep the urethra closed. Therefore, when pressure is placed on it, that’s when you may leak (2).
If you find that you're coughing regularly, your pelvic muscles may weaken from the repetitive strain occurring when you cough, and this can cause bladder leaks. So stress urinary incontinence tends to be common with people with chronic chest conditions such as:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (2)
However, there are other causes of stress incontinence and these include:
- Being overweight
- Damage to the bladder during surgery. For example, a hysterectomy, or the removal of the prostate gland
- Neurological conditions
- Certain medicines
- Connective tissue disorders (3,4)
Although the above causes of SUI aren’t directly related to coughing, when you have SUI and you cough, laugh, or sneeze, you may find that you leak.
What happens when coughing
When you cough your tummy muscles contract, this then places pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and bladder. Because the pelvic floor muscles have contracted, this stops you from peeing and all this happens without you needing to think about it.
However, when you have a weak pelvic floor, it's thought that the prolonged and constant coughing places pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. This can weaken the muscles and, therefore, bladder leaks are more likely to happen (2).
How to stop incontinence when coughing
There are a few options to stop bladder leaks when coughing. Let's dive into three of them below.
1. Kegel Exercises
Practising Kegel exercises or pelvic floor exercises daily can reduce your bladder leaks by strengthening your pelvic floor and is probably the first treatment your doctor will recommend. You can do Kegels on their own or using Kegel weights, or internal devices, such as an electrical probe.
Using vaginal weights can be uncomfortable and may cause problems. For example, you may find that the weights get stuck, cause tearing, or poor cleaning of the device can lead to infections. Also, if you use the weights too much, you may find that your muscles become too tight which can lead to pain during sex (5).
Doing Kegel exercises can be tricky because it’s easy to squeeze your tummy or thigh muscles rather than your pelvic floor. They can also be time-consuming, and let’s face it, we’d all rather be doing something other than Kegels.
Cue INNOVO! INNOVO is a device that does your Kegels for you.
So what makes INNOVO special?
- It does 180 perfect pelvic floor exercises for you.
- You only have to wear it for 30 minutes a day (5 times a week)
- You can wear it while relaxing or while doing activities in the comfort of your own home
- You get to set the intensity of the squeezes (No surprising shocks)
- Both men and women can use it
2. Controlled coughing and techniques.
Controlled coughing and the airway clearance technique can help reduce the amount of leakage when you cough. How do you do this? Simply sit upright with a straight spine before you cough. This technique can help you to clear your airway, as research has shown that your pelvic floor works best in this position.
There’s also a technique called ‘The Knack’. To do this, tighten and lift your pelvic floor muscles before you cough to protect your pelvic muscles from weakening (2).
3. Lifestyle changes
There are a few lifestyle changes you may want to make to stop your leaks when coughing, such as:
- Losing weight, this reduces the pressure that's placed on your pelvic floor muscles when you cough
- Cutting out caffeine and alcohol
- Stopping or cutting down on smoking (6)
Control bladder leaks when coughing with INNOVO
The number one way to control your bladder leaks when coughing is to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Choosing to strengthen your pelvic floor can be time-consuming, and using internal devices can be dangerous. INNOVO helps you to do your pelvic floor exercises perfectly by doing them for you (all 180 of them). In fact, they’re so effective that research shows that 87% of INNOVO users were defined as dry, or almost dry, after 12 weeks (7).
Find out how INNOVO can put an end to your bladder leaks and how you can get back to coughing leak-free
- Bladder & Bowel Community. Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). Published September 2021.
- Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS. Chronic Coughing and Urinary Incontinence. Reviewed April 2016.
- NHS. Urinary Incontinence Causes. November 2019
- Mayo Clinic. Stress Incontinence. March 2020.
- Medline. Kegel Exercises. Review October 2021.
- Medical News Today. Is Urine Leakage While Coughing Normal. September 2017.
- R. Dmochowski – Novel external electrical muscle stimulation device for the treatment of female stress urinary incontinence: randomized controlled noninferiority trial versus intravaginal electrical stimulation. ICS Conference 2018.