Young woman with incontinence

Young woman with incontinence

Is it common to leak urine even if you are young and have not been pregnant or given birth?

The honest answer is yes, it is unfortunately quite common. Leakage for older women is often related to previous pregnancy and childbirth, menopause or being overweight. For younger women, leakage is more often related to intense physical exercise.

But there are also other reasons for wetting oneself, such as avoiding to go to the toilet for too long. Holding it in for too long can lead to leakage because you are denying your body's own sensitive signals that tell you it's time to pee. The signals, or reflexes, can also be affected if you are in too much of a hurry to pee.

You should remember not to drink more fluids than your body needs, i.e. drink when you feel thirsty. Drinking a little from time to time can possibly affect your body's signals. Listening to your body and not holding it in for too long are two things you can do yourself if you think your urine leakage is related to holding it in.

Urinary tract infections and urine leakage

If you have a urinary tract infection, you may experience temporary urge incontinence. It can make it burn when you pee and it can make you feel like you have to pee all the time. Sometimes you may not even make it to the toilet without wetting yourself. Contact your health centre if you think you have a urinary tract infection.

Can medicines cause incontinence?

Some medicines make it harder to pee and others can make incontinence worse. If you have just started taking a new medicine and find that you have started leaking, contact your doctor and tell them about your new symptoms. The incidence of urine leakage among teenage girls is about 3%. The frequency increases slightly in women in their 20s who have not given birth. These women leak especially if they do intensive exercise for a sport, such as long-distance running, crossfit or dancing. Up to half of all adult women occasionally leak urine and one in ten women leak urine at least once a week. The most common cause of urinary leakage is stress urinary incontinence.

Urinary leakage is common, but not normal, so you should not accept that you are leaking. There is strong evidence that pelvic floor exercises are effective in treating stress urinary incontinence.

Although stress urinary incontinence is more common after pregnancy and childbirth, if you have had pelvic surgery, or if you are overweight and slightly older, it is also relatively common in young women. Young women who train intensively are particularly affected, but young women with eating disorders and low BMI are more likely to be affected than others.

When young gymnasts train, there are high forces involved, both inside the body and the impact of the jumps. The frequency of training is usually high and intense. Of these young gymnasts, about 1 in 3 experience urine leakage, especially during exertion. For trampoline jumpers, the figure is twice as high, with about 2 out of 3 affected.

At the same time, incontinent athletes seem to have a stronger pelvic floor than their non-incontinent training mates. Thus, it seems to be more about the high strain placed on the pelvic floor during repeated and intense exercise or trampoline jumping, and less about the strength of the pelvic floor itself.

However, research findings indicate that if you suffer from incontinence early in life, for example as an elite athlete, you will have leakage in the future as well. Not enough is known about involuntary urine leakage without weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles. For the vast majority of people, pelvic floor exercises help to get rid of the symptoms.

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