Stress urinary incontinence is loss of urine that occurs at the same time as physical activities that increase abdominal pressure (such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, and exercising). These activities can increase the pressure within the bladder, which behaves like a balloon filled with liquid. The rise in pressure can push urine out through the urethra, especially when the support to the urethra has been weakened; this is what we call stress urinary incontinence.
Pregnancy and delivery can have significant effects on the mechanisms of continence. Obstetricians are becoming more and more aware of the risks of injury to the pelvic floor caused by vaginal delivery. Excessive stretching of the supportive tissues, muscles and nerves, can cause permanent defects even after post-pregnancy healing. This may lead to various pelvic floor support problems for the surrounding organs. Although the urinary incontinence often resolves in the first few months after delivery, its initial presentation may signal the development of more troublesome incontinence in the future.
Some women with stress incontinence may note only occasional leaks, only with aggressive exercise, colds or allergies, or at times when the bladder is especially full. Other women have a great deal of leakage with simple activities such as getting up out of a chair, or simple walking. Although the severity may vary, many women find that these symptoms begin to limit their physical or social activities, and can have a serious impact on quality of life.