Do you have a problem with urine leaking through your underwear every time you cough, laugh, exercise, or get out of a car? Are you wearing pads so urine won’t stain your clothes and cause embarrassing situations in public? When you reach this point, it’s time to get help.
If you have these urinary symptoms, you have stress urinary incontinence, which simply means the muscles that support the bladder, uterus, urethra, and/or rectum may have been stretched to the point that they lose their effectiveness in holding your organs in place. This type of incontinence is relatively common in women who’ve experienced pregnancy and childbirth. It’s also fairly common as a result of aging. About 40% of women over 65 deal with incontinence.
Try lifestyle changes first
Sometimes women can change their habits to decrease the incontinence to the point that it isn’t bothersome. If you smoke, drink multiple cups of coffee, or are overweight, you can often lessen incontinence by not using tobacco, limiting your coffee intake, and losing weight. If you’ve tried these lifestyle changes and aren’t getting results, there are other options, including urinary slings.
Two types of urinary slings
Dr. Lyndon Taylor, board-certified OB/GYN at Healthcare for Women, offers a number of treatments for urinary incontinence, including surgically placed slings. There are two types of sling procedures.
The method used most often to control stress urinary incontinence is the midurethral sling. Think of the sling as a tiny hammock supporting your bladder and urethra, and the sling is a narrow strip of synthetic mesh.
There are several advantages to the midurethral sling procedure. First, it’s done on an outpatient basis, which means the surgery may be done at an outpatient center instead of a hospital, and you normally go home the same day. Second, it’s a minor operation that takes only about 30 minutes. Third, recovery time is faster than with other surgical procedures for stress urinary incontinence.
As with any surgery, there are minor risks in using the mesh sling. Inserting foreign material into the body poses a chance for infection. There’s the rare possibility that the mesh dissolves into the vaginal tissue. If complications occur, you may need another surgical procedure.
In traditional sling surgery, a small amount of tissue from your lower abdomen or thigh creates the supportive sling to hold your organs in place. Each end of the sling is sewn in place through a tiny cut in the abdomen.
With this procedure, you don’t have the risks involved with foreign material being introduced into your body. On the other hand, your recovery time is longer, so you’ll likely stay in the hospital for a couple of days. If you have problems urinating after the surgery, the sling might need a minor adjustment.
Dr. Taylor provides written and oral instructions for you to follow after the sling procedure. You may feel some discomfort for a while, but over-the-counter pain medications usually help. You definitely should avoid vigorous exercise and heavy lifting for several weeks.
If you’re struggling with urinary incontinence, maybe it’s time to get help. Call Healthcare for Women or book an appointment online for expert gynecological and urogynecological care.