Constipation and incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a symptom, not a disease. Your body is setting off an alarm when you have urinary incontinence, telling you something is not right and that you should talk to your doctor.

Your doctor will inform you that there several underlying problems that could be causing your incontinence, many of which are easily treatable.

One potential reason for urinary incontinence is constipation. Be prepared to tell your doctor whether or not you are currently constipated or have a history of chronic constipation.

What is constipation?

Constipation is simply having trouble passing a bowel movement or having fewer bowel movements than you would normally have. Not everyone has the same regularity. The normal number of bowel movements can range from several times a day to a few times per week depending upon the person.

Answering "Yes" to several of the following questions suggests that you may be suffering from constipation.

  1. Do you have to strain hard in order to pass a bowel movement?
  2. Are your stools hard?
  3. Do you feel like you haven't completely emptied your bowels?
  4. Has it been over 3 days since your last bowel movement?
  5. Do you often have less than 2 to 3 bowel movements per week?

How can constipation cause urinary incontinence?

There are several possible reasons to explain how constipation can lead to urinary incontinence. A history of straining while having bowel movements can actually weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which are important for bladder control. This is known as stress incontinence, which can be cured or successfully treated.

Another potential reason is a full bowel can press against your bladder, leading to one or both of the following: 1) making you feel the urge to urinate more frequently, called urge incontinence; and/or 2) blocking the flow of urine, making it difficult to urinate and causing your bladder to overflow, known as overflow incontinence.

If your doctor thinks your incontinence may be due to a full bowel caused by constipation, your doctor will treat your constipation and ask you to monitor your incontinence in relation to your constipation before considering other incontinence treatments.

How can I treat or prevent constipation?

If you are constipated, try to drink more water (2 to 4 extra glasses a day, preferably warm) and eat more foods rich in fibre. If you are still constipated after 2 weeks, call your doctor.

To help prevent from getting constipated again, it is important keep up a routine of good high-fibre diet, daily recommended water intake (e.g., eight 8 oz glasses per day unless you are on a restricted fluid intake), regular exercise, and addressing instead of ignoring an urge to pass stool.

When suffering from urinary incontinence, either while you are waiting to see your doctor or waiting for your therapy to work, using absorbent products can help bring a level of comfort and control from accidental leakage. You can also try doing some pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

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