Mother Daughter Incontinence

Ever leak when you sneeze? What about when you laugh? While conducting research for our digital platform this summer, we asked girls and moms about issues of incontinence. The response was overwhelming!

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Young or old, women of all ages experience a lack of control over their bladders. We asked two generations of women, mothers and daughters, about whether or not they have been troubled by leakage, and the results were surprising. We discovered a pattern: many mothers revealed that they had problems with incontinence as children, but didn't talk to anyone about it. Now their daughters are having the same issues, but are often silent when it comes to asking questions or finding a solution.

Why? Many of us feel ashamed to admit we sometimes leak pee when we're least expecting it! Think back to elementary school, middle school or high school, and what would happen if you told your friends about this problem. Self-image issues, peer victimization and depression are linked with incontinence in adolescents, and unfortunately these psychological traumas (and the underlying issue of enuresis) do not always go away as we mature. Incontinence is particularly common with female athletes, so if your daughter participates in sports, ask if she's had some of these problems herself.

Let’s talk a bit more about what incontinence actually is. The official definition from the International Continence Society is the unwanted leaking of urine that is bothersome, with or without physical activity; with or without a strong urge to go. It’s more commonly talked about as lack of bladder control, having the strong and sudden urge to go (and maybe not making it to the bathroom) and frequent trips to the bathroom (with or without leaks). The two most common kinds of incontinence are stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge urinary incontinence (UUI). How are they different? SUI happens when pressure put on the bladder by anything, from running to sneezing, meets weakened pelvic floor muscles, causing leakage. UUI is a sudden and strong urge to urinate, often accompanied by large amounts of leaking. Other types of urinary incontinence include overactive bladder (OAB), urinary retention, and mixed incontinence. Urinary Incontinence is definitely not rare—it affects 1 in 3 women, and annual costs exceed $76.2 billion and are on the rise!

So how can we--adults and kids alike--take control of our continence? Fortunately, there are many ways to manage and tackle this problem! Here are some solid tips for all ages:

  • Strengthen your pelvic floor. For moms, we recommend our Total Control DVD, and girls should check out our book Below Your Belt for yoga poses that help keep your "pretty fabulous muscles" strong.

  • Maintain a healthy weight and activity level. This looks different for everyone, but obesity can exacerbate incontinence by putting additional strain on your pelvic floor muscles. These days teens are more inactive than ever, so encourage yours to get up and move!

  • Consider reaching out to a specialized physical therapist who can help your develop your pelvic floor muscles, or a bladder retraining specialist, who will help rebuild the connection between your brain and your bladder!

  • Don't skimp on water! If you or your daughter struggle to meet your recommended daily intake, check out these teen-friendly tips on getting yourself to drink more water.

  • Avoid diuretics, like coffee, sodas and alcohol.

  • Go to the bathroom when you have to go, and avoid "just in case" trips to the toilet.

  • Ask your doctor if you have questions about your bladder health. Always remember that urinary incontinence is common, but not normal!

  • Talk about it. Talk with your kid, your mother, other mothers. Breaking the silence can be a huge relief in itself!

Most importantly, remember you are not alone and that your pelvic wellbeing matters!


Alicia Hynes is a strategic storyteller for a poetry publishing company, who does her best to take care of her pelvic health. She lives in Maine with her fiance and her hedgehog, Lentil.