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So, This Is Why You Pee a Little a Bit When You Cough

Photo credit: iStock/g-stockstudio

Photo credit: iStock/g-stockstudio

As much as it’s unpleasant to admit, many women pee a little bit when they cough. It’s not as if they completely lose control of their bladders, but when experiencing a strong, shock-to-the-system sensation like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or, yes, exercising, women may experience a brief loss of bladder control, which makes them feel like they’ve wet their pants. To get to the bottom of it — and to find out how to stop it for good — we chatted with Uduak U. Andy, MD, a urogynecologist at Penn Medicine. And the cause, she says, is… 

Often pelvic floor disorders. The disorder occurs when the muscles that support the pelvic organs are damaged or weakened. Any while any kind of disorder sounds discomfiting, Dr. Andy explains that pelvic floor disorders actually affect many women: “[They’re] pretty common and approximately 25% of women in the United States have one or more pelvic floor disorders.”

She notes that pelvic floor disorders frequently present as three conditions: “urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence (or accidental bowel leakage) and pelvic organ prolapse.” The urinary incontinence, then, is most likely what women experience when they briefly lose control of their urination, or when they feel the urge to go but are unable to make it to the bathroom in time, experiencing leakage.

Do the symptoms sound familiar? As mentioned, it’s a common condition for many women — particularly those who have gone through childbirth as it increases the risk of having a pelvic floor disorder. Dr. Andy explains, “[They] mostly develop over time and older age is a significant risk factor.” Luckily, the disorder is treatable, and best of all, reversible.

Should you feel like you might have a pelvic floor disorder, Dr. Andy suggests speaking with your primary care physician or gynecologist. From there, they will be able to determine the best course of treatment, which, for urinary incontinence, can include “bhavioral and fluid modification, pelvic physical therapy, medications, incontinence ring, neuromodulation [or] surgery.”

We also asked Dr. Andy about preventative measures. For that, she suggests Kegel exercises, maintaining a normal weight and staying physically active.

For more information about finding a specialist at Penn Medicine, click here.