Urinary Incontinence - Female



Stress incontinence may be caused by:

  • Poor pelvic floor muscle function
  • Damage to the tissue that supports the bladder and urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the bladder)
  • Problems with the muscle that controls urine flow

The cause of urge incontinence is not clear. It is likely due to many factors, including the aging process.

Muscles Involved in Incontinence in Women
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Risk Factors

Urinary incontinence is more common in women 45 years of age or older. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Childbirth
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • A family history of urinary incontinence
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Taking certain medicines, such as diuretics and antidepressants



The main symptom is not being able to control the flow of urine.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is usually enough to make the diagnosis. Other tests may be done to look for a cause. Urine may be tested.



Any underlying causes will need to be treated. The goal of treatment will be to help control the flow of urine. Options are:

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes that may help to control the flow of urine include:

  • Behavioral therapy and pelvic floor muscle exercises, such as Kegel exercises
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Reaching or maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise
  • Using pads to collect urine when it passes


Any medicine that is causing urinary incontinence will be stopped or changed.

Medicine may also be given to help control the flow of urine. Some options are:

  • Medicines to relax bladder muscles, such as anticholinergics and beta-3 adrenergic agonists
  • Antidepressants, such as duloxetine
  • Estrogen—low levels can weaken bladder muscles


People who are not helped by these methods may need procedures or surgery. Options are:

  • Injections of bulking agents into the urethra to help stop leaks
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections to help relax the muscles of the bladder
  • Implanting devices to stimulate the nerves of the bladder to help control the flow of urine
  • Placing strips of material or sutures to ease pressure on the urethra, such as with a urethral suspension


The risk of urinary incontinence may be lowered by doing exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.