Male & Female Incontinence Explained

Incontinence effects males and females in different ways based off their anatomy.

There are two types of incontinence which effect both genders. The first being urinary incontinence which is when urine is involuntarily lost from the bladder.

The second form of incontinence is known as faecal or bowel incontinence which is when or bowel motion, faeces or wind is lost from the bowel .

Female Incontinence

Incontinence affects females seven to eight times more often than it does males. Female incontinence is therefore often more widely discussed by healthcare professionals.

Why so many more females?

During childbirth, females push their baby through the birth canal which places pressure on the pelvic organs. Some females are to be able to withstand this stretching better than others.

If damage is caused during childbirth, it is unfortunately often worsened by such things as long-term coughing or sneezing, constipation and an increase in body mass.

In addition to childbirth, menopause, the decreasing hormone levels which occur during menopause can also contribute to faecal or urinary incontinence. For more information on menopause and bladder control, please click here. 

However, despite the above, It is important to understand that incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging, nor is it necessary to accept long-term incontinence after bearing a child.

In many cases, either type of incontinence can be cured or managed.

Women’s Waterworks

To understand the female incontinence properly, we must first understand how the female body functions.

In every females anatomy;

  • Kidneys filter urine from the blood which is then stored in the bladder.
  • When reaching the toilet, relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles occurs and the brain gives permission for the bladder muscle to contract, squeezing the urine out through the urethra – the tube from the bladder to the outside.
  • When the bladder muscle contracts, the muscle that holds the bladder outlet tube (urethra) shut during storage (called the sphincter), relaxes to allow the urine to pass through.
  • The whole system is supported by the muscles of the pelvic pubic bone (the front bone of your pelvis).

Women who experience incontinence have weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles, which leads to difficulty in controlling urination and urinary retention. Many women are able to gain back some strength in these muscles by learning and practicing Pelvic Floor Exercises.

Urine is about 95% water and 5% waste. Some people incorrectly believe that by drinking less fluid, they will reduce their bladder control loss. In fact, urine that is more concentrated due to lack of fluid intake can irritate the bladder and cause more serious problems such as infection and dehydration. In addition, inadequate fluid intake can cause constipation, which may also make matters worse.

Male Incontinence

It is estimated, 20% of the  2.3 million Australian’s and New Zealanders who suffer from urinary incontinence are male. 

Male incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging, and it is not a disease. Rather, it is  often a symptom or side effect of another underlying medical condition. 

Prostate problems and the treatments required to correct them are the most frequent causes of urinary incontinence in men. Most men have temporary incontinence following surgery for prostate cancer.

The severity of urinary incontinence in men ranges from partial to complete loss of bladder control. They may experience varying degrees of urine loss, and the incontinence may change over time. For example, men with light incontinence may leak a little when they laugh or cough, while men with heavy incontinence may be experiencing continuous leakage. No two men are alike, and no two men are affected by incontinence the same way.

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