Female Urinary Incontinence

Understanding Female Urinary Incontinence

The causes and prevalence of UI

Female urinary incontinence (UI), refers to the involuntary leakage of urine. UI is an extremely common condition and often an embarrassing problem. Research indicates that 50% of adult women experience urinary incontinence, but fewer than half of these women seek care. Though urinary incontinence tends to become more common as women age, it can occur in adult women of all ages. Many young women suffer from urinary incontinence in various forms. In addition to aging, other risk factors for urinary incontinence may include obesity, pregnancy, childbirth and family history. Additionally, smoking, pelvic surgery, pelvic radiation therapy, and menopause have all been associated with the development of urinary incontinence.


The types of UI

While there are different types of urinary incontinence, the most common types affecting women include stress urinary incontinence, urgency urinary incontinence, and mixed urinary incontinence. Increased pressure in the abdomen causes women with stress urinary incontinence to experience involuntary urine loss. This can occur when:

  • Coughing
  • Laughing
  • Sneezing

Women with urgency urinary incontinence experience involuntary loss of urine associated with a sensation of urinary urgency and often accompanied by day and night-time urinary frequency. Women who experience mixed urinary incontinence experience a combination of stress and urgency urinary incontinence. While the severity of urinary incontinence varies considerably from extremely mild to constant wetting, urinary incontinence of any severity should not be viewed as an inevitable consequence of aging.


Treatment of UI

Any woman of any age who is bothered by leakage of urine should consider speaking to a health care provider with expertise in the diagnosis and management of urinary incontinence. While treatment options for different types of urinary incontinence will differ, there are numerous non-surgical as well as surgical approaches to managing urinary incontinence that can significantly improve quality of life in women of all ages.


A urologist or urogynecologist can discuss with you the treatment options that are right for you.


To find a specialist experienced in treating female urinary incontinence, visit the Cincinnati Sexual Health Consortium provider page.


The following national organizations provide additional information on female urinary incontinence.


Urology Care Foundation



American Urological Association



International Society for Sexual Medicine



The North American Menopause Society



International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health



The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists