Everything Incontinence

It’s Okay if You Pee When You Cough — Why it Happens

Breaking Down Why Some Adults Pee When They Cough

As men and women age, or when women become pregnant, the body goes through many unexpected changes, such as sudden urinary incontinence issues. If you’re wondering, “why do I pee when I cough?” you’re not alone. This issue is very common, especially among women and older adults. As the body ages, the muscles get weaker, and it’s especially prevalent among women who have given birth vaginally. Although it’s a sensitive issue, it’s very common: peeing when you cough (stress incontinence) is the most common type of incontinence, and it can be treated. 

Understanding the Basics of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is characterized by urine leakage. There are several categories of urinary incontinence, including urge incontinence (aka overactive bladder), overflow incontinence, and stress incontinence, which we will focus on below. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI), aka “the leaky valve” is the reason you pee when you cough, sneeze, or jump up and down. Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence, as up to one in three people assigned female at birth (AFAB) experience it at some point in their lives. 

The Anatomy and Physiology of Urinary Control

Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles of the pelvic floor and bladder are weakened. These include muscles that support the urethra: the pelvic floor muscles and muscles that support the urinary sphincter. As the bladder fills with urine, it expands. Normally, valve-like muscles in the urethra stay closed as the bladder expands to keep leaks from happening until you can reach the toilet. However, when those muscles weaken, anything that puts force on the abdomen and pelvic floor muscles will pressurize the bladder — like sneezing, coughing, jumping up and down, or laughing. As a result, there’s less bladder control and a sudden release of urine.

Causes of Urinary Leakage When Coughing

You know urine leaks often happen because of weakened pelvic floor muscles. But what causes that weakness? What are the risk factors to know about? There are many factors, but the most common cause is childbirth. Women who have given vaginal birth are at a significantly higher risk of stress incontinence. This is because when the body is stretched during childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles get loose and nerves can become damaged, thin, and weakened. Other factors include: 

  • Age: As the body ages, hormones affect the elasticity and firmness of the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Body weight: Those who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of stress incontinence due to excess weight sitting on the abdomen and pelvic organs, pressurizing the bladder even more.
  • Prostate surgery: Although stress incontinence is more common in women, men experience it too. Treatment for prostate cancer usually involves surgery, which weakens the urinary sphincter.
  • Nerve injuries: When the nerves in the pelvic region or lower back are injured, it can affect bladder control
  • Uterine prolapse: This is when the muscles and tissue in your pelvis weaken. This allows the uterus to drop down into the vagina, often contributing to incontinence.
  • Chronic coughing: Chronic conditions like coughing can put constant stress on the bladder muscles leading to leakage.

The Impact On Your Daily Life

Urinary incontinence issues can stop people from going out, doing physical activities, hanging out with friends, or getting physically intimate with a partner. It’s important to note that stress incontinence is the most common form of incontinence, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Empowering yourself with exercises to improve your condition, as well as products to avoid embarrassing accidents in public, will help you feel like yourself again. 

Management and Treatment Options

Luckily, stress incontinence is completely manageable. The first step to take is to consult with your healthcare provider to discuss physical therapy or other treatment options that best suit your needs. The following are the most common forms of treatment for stress urinary incontinence:

  • Pelvic floor therapy: The first best step is to do pelvic floor exercises, such as kegels, to help strengthen the muscles around the urethra
  • Vaginal cones: These tools are a great and easy way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and are available in different sizes to fit your body. 
  • Medication and surgery: These options may be recommended for extreme stress incontinence issues, but it’s important to consult with your doctor first before taking these steps. 
  • Incontinence products: While you’re working on strengthening the pelvic floor, it’s important to still live your life worry-free. Using helpful pads, liners, and underwear will keep you dry and embarrassment-free so you can live your life as you normally would.
  • Cut out or limit alcohol and coffee: These bladder stimulants can irritate the bladder and cause more of a need to go to the bathroom as they are diuretics. 
  • Eat more fiber to limit constipation: Straining to go puts more stress on the bladder, so make sure you’re eating enough fiber and healthy foods to stay regular.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking causes chronic coughing, which can worsen stress incontinence.

Choosing the Right Products for Stress Incontinence

Navigating stress incontinence requires finding the right support. Below are the top adult diapers and incontinence pads to help manage this condition.

Adult Diapers

Incontinence Pads

  • Poise Pads Ultimate Coverage: These pads provide superior protection and comfort for women seeking reassurance, featuring an absorbent core to lock away wetness and a longer, thin, contoured design.
  • How Parentgiving Can Help 

    Peeing when you cough can feel frustrating, embarrassing, and disempowering. However, there are many solutions and products to make you feel more secure. Parentgiving has a wide selection of premium products, such as leak-proof underwear and pads, to help support your body. Explore all of our incontinence products and feel more empowered today.