FAQs: Stress Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the loss of voluntary control over your urinary functions. Approximately 18 million women in the U.S. suffer from urinary incontinence2. That’s 1 in 4 women over the age of 18.2

Yes. The most common types are stress, urge and mixed, which is a combination of the two. Stress incontinence happens when urine leaks during coughing, laughing or exercise because the urethra does not function properly. Urge incontinence involves the sudden sensation of the need to urinate that can be hard to put off — the sudden urge to go. Mixed is a combination of stress and urge incontinence.3

Female stress incontinence generally occurs when your pelvic muscles are not strong enough to keep the opening of the bladder neck closed when there’s pressure on your bladder from laughing, coughing, lifting, exercising or other activities that cause abdominal pressure. It can slowly develop as you age and may be the result of a specific event such as childbirth, or be a result of smoking, obesity or other previous tissue traumas in the area.1114

Yes, stress urinary incontinence can frequently be treated with women seeing their symptoms improve. 25 It is quite common for life events like childbirth or menopause to contribute to bladder leakage, but that does not mean that bladder leakage is considered normal at any age.25 There are many different treatment options available for stress urinary incontinence. It is important to discuss the problem with your doctor to find out what treatment may be right for you.

Treatment options for stress urinary incontinence range from the day-to-day management of symptoms to surgical treatments that provide a permanent solution.18 Examples of non-surgical options include wearing pads or absorbent undergarments or improving pelvic strength through muscle exercises. Surgical treatments include stress incontinence surgery that utilizes either your own tissue or a synthetic sling to support the urethra to help you regain bladder control. Your doctor can discuss these options to determine the best choice for you.9

Stress incontinence surgery may be approached in different ways. In some cases, the surgeon may use your own tissue to correct your incontinence. Another minimally invasive18 option uses a synthetic or biologic material to help support your urethra, which is commonly known as a “sling.” It helps cradle the urethra by providing additional support to help correct urinary incontinence.20

In a recent study, 113 women had the Altis® sling implanted, and after two years 90.4% of women state they are “much better” or “very much better,” 87.9% did not leak after they coughed during a test (a “cough stress test”).19

It is possible to become incontinent after stress incontinence surgery. One factor to consider is that future pregnancies following stress incontinence surgery may negate the effects of your surgery and you may once again become incontinent.21

Every patient’s recovery time is different following surgery. During your recovery, be sure to avoid heavy lifting and sexual intercourse for six weeks or as recommended by your doctor. Your doctor will provide you with specific details about your recovery process.18

Some of the more common side effects from surgery include: mesh erosion, infection, short- or long-term pain, and injury to the bladder or other pelvic organs by the instruments used to place the sling. Ask your surgeon for a complete list of warnings, precautions and possible adverse events.20

Most insurance plans, including Medicare, cover these procedures. Consult your insurance carrier to find out the specific criteria for coverage. The reimbursement specialist at your physician’s office may also be able to help you with this.

Ask your doctor for more information about potential risks and complications, as well as your specific surgery and situation.