Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a type of urinary incontinence, which is a loss of voluntary control of urination. Any pressure placed on the abdomen and bladder can result in urine leaks. The condition can vary in severity and can impact your confidence and well-being.

The “stress” in stress incontinence is used in a physical sense only and it refers to excessive pressure on the bladder causing involuntary leaks as a result of coughing, sneezing, laughing, jumping, heavy lifting, or other movements that put pressure on the bladder. It has nothing to do with emotional stress.

Stress Incontinence Symptoms

The main symptom of stress incontinence is the loss of bladder control during physical activity. You may experience just a few drops of urine, or a large involuntary flow. You may be suffering from stress incontinence if you experience leaks regularly when you:

  • Cough

  • Laugh

  • Sneeze

  • Run

  • Lift something heavy

  • Exercise

  • Jump

  • Have sexual intercourse

You may feel that you have little to no control of your bladder during these activities, especially when it's full, and leaks will occur as a result. Stress incontinence is unique for every individual, and activities that cause leakage for you may not affect somebody else with the condition. Sometimes even standing up from a seated or reclined position can put extra pressure on the bladder that results in a leakage.

Many people will report feelings of anxiety when travelling, when out and about, doing the groceries or getting stuck in traffic, and will often need to know about toilet access when visiting somewhere new. If the fear of leaks caused by stress incontinence is affecting your well-being and quality of life, you may benefit from discussing this with your GP to discuss treatment options.

Who Can Suffer From Stress Incontinence?

Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence that can affect both men and women of all ages, although it is more common in older age. The condition is much more prevalent in women, and it’s estimated that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men in the UK experience symptoms every day.

What Causes Stress Incontinence?

Stress incontinence occurs when there is a stretching out and weakening of the muscles and connective tissue that support the bladder, and this can occur for a number of reasons. The most common causes of stress incontinence in women include pregnancy, childbirth and the menopause. Prostate surgery is the most common factor leading to stress incontinence in men.

  • Pregnancy: changes in hormones and the weight of a growing baby can place a lot of additional pressure on the bladder while pregnant. You may start to experience pelvic floor weakness as early as 12 weeks into pregnancy and find you are constantly needing to run to the loo
  • Childbirth: the trauma of childbirth, whether by natural birth or caesarean section can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leaving the neck of the bladder un-supported, resulting in long term issues with urinary leaks. This is particularly true following births involving forceps delivery.

  • Menopause: hormonal changes such drops in oestrogen levels can result in the pelvic floor muscles losing their tone and strength, resulting in a lack of bladder control

  • High impact exercise: high-intensity exercise like running, gymnastics, horse riding and HIIT classes can lead to a weakening of the connective tissue that supports the bladder due to constant and repetitive pressure when undertaking such activities

  • Prostate Cancer Surgery: during radical prostatectomy surgery, the prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissue is removed, causing bladder-neck weakness resulting in less resistance to bladder pressure and control over the pelvic floor1.

As well as physical trauma, there are a number of other risk factors for stress incontinence. Being overweight or obese can also be a significant trigger for stress incontinence due to additional weight and pressure being put on the bladder.

Other stress incontinence risk factors include:

  • Smoking

  • Excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption

  • Constipation

  • Hormonal deficiencies

Stress Incontinence Treatments

Treatment for stress incontinence can vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition. Your doctor will be able to run tests to identify the cause of stress incontinence and create a treatment plan based on your requirements.

Treatment plans for stress incontinence can include lifestyle changes, medication, pelvic floor exercises, and even surgery for severe cases. Pelvic floor exercises or ‘Kegel exercises’ can help to re-educate and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, restoring bladder control. These can be quite tricky to master, and you might find these difficult if your pelvic floor muscles are particularly weak. Our ‘Invisible Workout’ series with Pelvic Floor Expert Jane Wake walks you through how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly.

INNOVO offers a compelling and innovative alternative to manual pelvic floor exercises.

INNOVO is a clinically proven, truly non-invasive and long-lasting solution to urinary incontinence. Easy to use and comfortable to wear, INNOVO helps you safely and effortlessly strengthen and re-educate the entire network of pelvic floor muscles through gentle muscle stimulation.

Using INNOVO for just 30 minutes a day/five days a week over 12 weeks has been proven to treat bladder weakness – delivering results in as little as four weeks2.

INNOVO treats Stress, Urge & Mixed Incontinence in both women and men of all ages, and is the only non-invasive pelvic floor exerciser that targets the root cause of the problem. Use INNOVO's stress incontinence programme which will focus on delivering muscle strengthening stimulations to the entire network of pelvic floor muscles.

A clinical study found that:

  • 80% of users saw a significant reduction in leaks after just 4 weeks2

  • 87% of users were defined as either dry or almost dry after 12 weeks3

  • 90% of users would recommend the therapy to others4

1 Colley, Wendy (2014), Nursing Times, Incontinence Following Prostate Cancer Surgery

2 Soeder S, et al, A randomised, controlled, double-blind, clinical study to compare two neuromuscular stimulator devices in female stress urinary incontinence: Effects on symptoms and quality of life. IUGA Conference 2018

3 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

4 Observational study on the treatment of stress urinary incontinence with Innovotherapy, April 2014

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