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Written by

Kate Dyson


Kate is a content specialist who is passionate about women's health. She's also mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly, a lover of wine.

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For words you might want to know more

Stress Urinary Incontinence

A common condition affecting millions, it involves the involuntary leakage of urine due to a loss of bladder control, for which TNS offers a potential treatment pathway.

Tibial Nerve Stimulation (TNS)

This is a non-surgical treatment for incontinence that uses electrical impulses to stimulate the tibial nerve, which plays a role in bladder control.

Help! Why am I leaking wee in my 20s?

Urinary incontinence. A phrase we don’t normally anticipate dealing with until much later in life, right? But if you are leaking wee fairly frequently, you could be suffering from a condition called stress urinary incontinence, or SUI as it's commonly known.

Experiencing incontinence isn’t just an ‘old lady’ problem - it can affect anyone, regardless of age. And yes, that includes you - because even 20-somethings can have SUI for a number of reasons.

A Quick Insight into SUI

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is, quite frankly, a bit of a pain. It’s when urine leaks out when your bladder is under pressure; for example when you cough or laugh. Seems a bit unfair that even a good belly-laugh can have unexpected consequences, doesn’t it?

What Causes SUI in Young Women?

Physical Factors

The most common cause of SUI is a weakening of the muscles in the pelvic floor. These are the muscles that support your bladder. If they're weak, you may find it difficult to tightly close off the urethral sphincter (the muscle controlling the release of urine from the bladder). And the result? Yep, dreaded leaks and dashes for the loo.

Lifestyle and Behavioural Factors

Surprisingly, your daily habits and lifestyle can impact your bladder health. That means your diet, exercise habits, sleeping patterns, and even how often you nip off for a toilet break can all play a part.

  • Physical Activity: Studies have shown a correlation between high-impact activities, like running and jumping, and SUI. But don't use this as an excuse to ditch your exercise routine! It’s about finding the right balance.

  • Lack of Sleep: A good night's sleep isn’t just beneficial for your mood. It also helps your body function optimally, including your bladder. Chronic sleep deprivation can potentially impact bladder control.

  • Toilet Habits: We all get busy and sometimes holding it in seems the only option. Regularly delaying bathroom breaks, however, can strain your bladder over time, potentially leading to SUI.

  • Alcohol and Drugs: Alcohol and certain drugs can act as diuretics, increasing urine production and potentially leading to bladder leakage.

  • Diet and Nutrition: Certain foods and drinks (think spicy, acidic, or caffeinated) can irritate your bladder and increase your chances of leakage .

  • Sexual Activity: While there's no direct link between SUI and sex, frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can sometimes be related to sexual activity, can exacerbate SUI symptoms.

  • Hygiene: Proper genital hygiene is important. Not maintaining hygiene can lead to UTIs, which again, can worsen SUI.

Leaks can be embarrassing, but they are totally treatable

Spotting the Symptoms

  • Leakage During Physical Activity: This might include leakage when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or lift something heavy. This is the classic sign of SUI.

  • Frequent Urination: Find yourself needing the loo more often than usual? This could be a symptom.

  • Urgency: This is when you suddenly feel a strong need to urinate, and it can't be delayed often resulting in a dash for the loo.

  • Nocturia: If you're visiting the bathroom multiple times during the night, this is something to discuss with your GP.

Treating SUI - Over the Counter and GP Led Treatments

Fortunately, SUI is treatable. Here are some of your options.

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: These are designed to strengthen your pelvic muscles. Better known as Kegel exercises, they can be highly effective if done regularly and correctly.

  • Bladder Training: This involves training your bladder to hold more urine for longer periods of time, to help improve bladder control.

  • Supplementation: Taking a supplement that contains pumpkin seed extract can help improve your bladder tone and function. Jude's Daily Support supplement helps to improve leaks by up to 79% with a powerful combination of soy Germ and pumpkin seed extracts that work together to reduce inflammation, improve the tone of the bladder walls and pelvic floor and helps to return 'normal sensation' so you know when to go.

  • Leak-proof Pants: These are as easy to wear as period pants, but are designed specifically for urine. Locking in dodgy whiffs is important, especially when you want to socialise and stay active. Jude's Leak-proof pants are also super absorbent (holding up to 8tsp of pee), soft to the touch and don't leave any tell-tale VPL.

GP-Led Treatments

If over-the-counter options don't offer enough relief, it's time to seek help from a professional. Your GP might suggest:

  • Medication: Certain drugs such as Vesicare, Toviaz, solifenacin, trospium, oxybutynin can help tighten muscles and prevent leakage.

  • Physical Therapy: A physiotherapist specialising in women's health can provide exercises specifically tailored to your situation. They'll fully assess you, including an internal examination, to check the health of your pelvic floor and area too, and totally understanding about how it feels to have SUI in your 20s.

  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgical intervention might be necessary. This is generally considered only after other treatments haven't worked. Options include surgical slings, sphincter procedures, Tibial Nerve Stimulation and colposuspension. Your GP will be able to discuss what might work best for you in this eventuality.

SUI in your 20s can feel limiting and exhausting. Reaching out to discuss with other people who might understand and even experience it themselves is a key step towards recovery too.

And don't forget, Jude has a community of women experiencing incontinence who gather online to offer peer support and advice to each other. You can join us here.

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