Stress Urinary Incontinence: It's More Common than You Think

While many people avoid discussing intimate health issues, stress urinary incontinence, or SUI, is more common than you think. Approximately one in three women struggles with stress incontinence in their lifetime, especially if they’ve gone through childbirth or experienced an injury to their lower back.

At Physicians for Women in Madison, Wisconsin, our team of women’s health specialists can help determine what’s causing your incontinence, and help you find solutions. 

Common causes of SUI

Overall, stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is caused by a weakened pelvic floor at the level of the urethra; the small tube that allows the flow of urine from your bladder to exit your body. Unlike overactive bladder (OAB) or urgency incontinence (UI), SUI is caused by a weakening of the supportive tissues surrounding the urethra, and not the bladder. 

It’s called stress incontinence because any form of physical stress or strain to the pelvic floor leads to a downward displacement of the urethral tissues at the point of its exit from the bladder, called the UVJ, or urethral vesical junction. Loss of urine might range from a few drops to a noticeable flow. 

Common “stress” actions that can lead to stress urinary incontinence include: 

Delivering a child vaginally is the most common reason for  SUI. Chronic cough, smoking, chronic constipation, malnutrition and obesity are linked to SUI symptoms as well.. 

Treatments for stress urinary incontinence 

Initial conservative treatment options for stress urinary incontinence include:

Lifestyle changes 

If your stress incontinence is aggravated by your weight, your doctor might recommend diet and exercise. Losing weight can take pressure off your bladder and abdomen, which can help with SUI. 

Cutting down on bladder irritants like caffeine and alcohol and foods high in oxalic acid can also reduce how often you need to use the restroom (urinary frequency), which reduces the likelihood of accidents. Smoking leads to increased coughing and overall poor health which can lead to stress urinary incontinence.

Pelvic floor exercises 

These are recommended for women of all ages, especially those suffering from SUI. Kegel exercises involve contracting the pelvic muscles responsible for controlling your flow of urine from the urethra.. By strengthening your pelvic floor, you improve bladder control.


Physicians for Women also provide a CO2 pixel laser treatment to resurface, revascularize and strengthen the vaginal tissues, including those supporting the bladder and urethra. The FemiLift treatment has been shown to help with stress urinary incontinence over the course of three visits, a month apart. The procedure is simple and performed comfortably in the office and with very little downtime.


If your SUI is severe, or uncorrected with any of the other more conservative options above, we might recommend a minor outpatient surgery to alleviate the condition, called a TVT (tension-free vaginal taping) urethropexy that supports the UVJ using a thin strip of mesh. 

To learn more about your treatment options, get in touch with the experts at Physicians for Women. You can schedule a consultation by calling 608-218-4835, or book an appointment online.

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