Our Experts Answer Common Questions about Bladder Control Problems
Q: What can I do to control urine odor?
A: Shower twice a day and change your underwear even more frequently, if necessary. And make sure your underwear is 100 percent cotton. "This allows the skin to breathe and helps keep it dry, which may prevent rashes and yeast infections," says Dee Fenner, M.D., Furlong professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of gynecology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. You can also use alcohol-free moist wipes to freshen up in this area.
But don't use deodorant sprays or feminine hygiene products. These can throw off the vaginal pH balance and lead to irritation, says Jill Maura Rabin, M.D., head of urogynecology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, NY.
Q: Sometimes when I laugh, sneeze or cough, I urinate just a little. Should I be concerned?
A: "Accidentally releasing a drop of urine three to six times a year is not really that unusual," says Dr. Rabin. This is a form of mild stress incontinence, which occurs when movements or activities (such as sneezing) increase pressure on the bladder, causing leaks.
"Though it’s not severe, if you find the problem worrisome or it's occupying a significant portion of your thoughts, it's something to discuss with your doctor," Dr. Rabin says.
Q: After I exercise hard, my underwear is damp and has an acidic smell. How can I tell if this is sweat or if this means I'm leaking urine when I work out?
A: You can actually do an experiment to tell for sure: Half an hour before you exercise, take a pyridium tablet (100 mg). It's an over-the-counter medication for urinary-tract-infection pain that also turns your urine orange.
Place a sanitary napkin in your underwear and examine it after your workout, advises Dr. Fenner. "If it's damp and orange, you probably leaked urine."
Q: Sometimes I have a bit of leakage during sex. How can I guard against this?
A: For starters, always try to empty your bladder before you slip between the sheets. And opt for sexual positionssuch as being on topthat may reduce the likelihood of accidents.
"If leakage occurs when you orgasm, short-term use of a medication for overactive bladder may help," Dr. Fenner says. "You'll need to take it one to two hours before sex, so plan ahead."
Q: Why do I leak urine more easily before my period?
A: Right before you menstruate, your uterus may be slightly enlarged, which can put pressure on your bladder, spurring leaks. But hormonal changes may also be to blame: A shift in progesterone and estrogen levels can relax the urethra, says Craig Comiter, M.D., director of the Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, CA.
And fluctuations in the levels of prostaglandins (fatty acid compounds) can cause your uterus and bladder to contract, which can result in leakage problems. "If you"re prone to menstrual cramps, taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug [pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen] just before you expect your period will block prostaglandins and reduce bladder and uterine spasms." Follow package directions for dosage and frequency.
From our sister publication REMEDY's Healthy Living Winter 2012