Is it normal to leak urine when I cough or sneeze, or when I think about going to the bathroom?

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Is it normal to leak urine when I cough or sneeze, or when I think about going to the bathroom?

Dr. Diane Robinson is a gynecologist with Mercy Women's Health Care at Nazareth Hospital, Northeast Philadelphia.

Millions of women experience involuntary loss of urine called urinary incontinence (UI). The most common causes are stress, urge, or mixed incontinence.

Stress incontinence occurs when urine leaks after coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting something heavy. With urge incontinence, the leaking occurs with the urge to go. Some women with an overactive bladder will have the urge to go to the bathroom very often.

Urinary incontinence can affect a woman's quality of life. But a gynecologist or urologist can help manage the symptoms of incontinence.

The evaluation usually starts by performing a simple urine culture to rule out an infection. You may be asked to keep a voiding diary to record how much and how often you go. Your doctor may also do some in-office tests to see what really makes you leak. This is called urodynamic testing.

You and your doctor can then devise a plan. It may include Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. Just as with any exercise, Kegels must be done regularly to produce results. Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy or surgery to correct the problem.

If you have an overactive bladder, your doctor may prescribe medication that blocks the nerve signals that cause frequent urination and urgency.

Women do not have to "just live with it." Go see your gynecologist to discuss your symptoms and get on a plan.

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