Why Do I Get Bladder Leaks When I Cough and What Can I Do About it?

Sep 07, 2022

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Why Do I Get Bladder Leaks When I Cough and What Can I Do About it?

Imagine you’re at work, having a good laugh with coworkers. Suddenly, you feel something down below. Did you just pee yourself? It happens once, and you think… maybe it’s just a one-time thing. But then it continues to get worse over the next year and happens while coughing and sneezing, too. What’s going on?

It’s called stress incontinence. And while it’s not a normal part of aging, it is common. In fact, 4 in 10 women over the age of 40 deal with some form of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence is the most common type for women. Let’s learn more about what causes these bladder leaks when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.

What is Stress Incontinence?

Think of stress incontinence like a water balloon that is held closed with your finger and thumb but not closed. The balloon is your bladder, the water is your urine, and your fingers are holding your bladder sphincter muscles closed, keeping the liquid in. When you squeeze the balloon hard enough, the water squirts out. The bladder works in a similar manner.

Stress urinary incontinence, also abbreviated SUI, happens when too much pressure pushes urine out of your bladder. Pressure happens when you tense your abdominal muscles; which happens every time you laugh, cough, and sneeze. It can also happen when you bend, lift, or jump.

What Causes Stress Urinary Incontinence?

As we age, have babies, or undergo surgery, our muscles tend to lose muscle tone and bodyparts don’t always stay where they should. SUI is usually caused by weakened pelvic muscles. Those aren’t the only risk factors that can cause or worsen stress urinary incontinence. Here are a few more:

  • Smoking
  • Chronic coughing
  • Straining
  • Obesity

What Can I Do to Stop a Leaky Bladder When I Cough?

The great news about stress urinary incontinence is that there are plenty of natural ways to treat and prevent it. Let’s review some things that you try.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Since the problem is usually caused by weak muscles, the first solution to try is muscle strengthening exercises. But how in the world do you strengthen your bladder muscles? It’s not actually your bladder, but your pelvic floor muscles that you’ll want to pay attention to. You can find common pelvic floor exercises online or work with your doctor to come up with personalized exercises to improve your pelvic muscle tone.

Lifestyle Changes

Other natural ways to deal with the problem include using the restroom more often so that there is less urine in your bladder and it’s less likely to be pushed out with increased physical pressure from laughing or coughing. You could also try tensing your pelvic floor muscles before laughing, coughing, or sneezing.

Losing weight, drinking less caffeine, quitting smoking, and drinking less in general are also lifestyle changes that could reduce your incontinence.

Ask Your Doctor About a Pessary

If these methods don’t work for you, there is another option on the table for most women: a pessary. Pessaries are medical devices that are inserted into the vaginal canal to help support the structure of pelvic organs, tissues, and muscles. It provides extra support to the bladder and sphincters to keep them in the correct position and reduce the chance of stress incontinence.


Book Appointment Now Call For An Appointment


My Virtual Physician has partnered with Uresta to provide a fitting-free pessary option to our patients who want to manage their stress urinary incontinence. If you’ve got a leaky bladder and want to explore your options, set up an appointment with our doctors today so that we can get you back to feeling yourself again.


If all else fails and you can’t reduce or treat your stress urinary incontinence with the above methods, surgery is another solution on the table. The surgical solutions to SUI include injections, urethral slings, or colposuspension. Injections are the least invasive option and can be done in a doctor’s office. The other two surgical options can be done laparoscopically. Your doctor can help you decide which type of surgical treatment might be best for your situation.

Sealing Up the Leaks

Living with bladder leaks when you cough, laugh, or sneeze puts a real damper on life. Luckily, there are many solutions to treat stress urinary incontinence so that you can get back to enjoying life to its fullest. Get in touch with My Virtual Physician if you want personalized SUI treatment.