Everything Incontinence

Obesity & Incontinence: The Connection & Management Tips

Can Being Overweight Lead to Urinary Incontinence?

Leaks and urinary accidents are never fun to deal with, especially as an adult. Urinary incontinence, or the accidental leakage of urine, is an issue many adults face — an estimated 25 million Americans, according to the National Association of Continence. Although it may feel uncomfortable to deal with (or talk about), it’s a common issue that can be treated. 

Many factors contribute to urinary incontinence, and carrying extra weight, specifically around the lower stomach and pelvic region, is a major risk factor. Below, we’ll explain exactly why being overweight or obese puts you at an increased risk of urinary incontinence, and what you can do to treat it. 

Understanding the Connection Between Obesity and Urinary Incontinence

If you sneeze, laugh, jump up and down, or just feel that urge and notice urinary leaks and accidents, you could have urinary incontinence. Many types of incontinence and factors cause incontinence, from childbirth to aging to surgical procedures.

However, of all the factors, studies have shown that extra fat around the abdomen is one of the leading causes associated with obesity-related incontinence. In one medical study, there was a clear correlation between increased fat and the prevalence of urinary incontinence. With each 5-unit increase in body mass index (BMI), there was an associated 20-70% increase in the urinary incontinence risk, and the odds of urinary incontinence incidents during 5-10 years increased by approximately 30-60%. Increased weight is associated with incident stress incontinence, mixed incontinence, and urge incontinence with overactive bladder

The reason why those with a higher BMI are more likely to experience incontinence is that extra body weight increases abdominal pressure on the bladder which affects the mobility of the urethra, leading to more leaks. Similar to how pregnant women have to urinate more frequently or experience incontinence more often due to the excess weight they’re carrying on top of the bladder, those who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience urinary incontinence than those who have a healthier BMI. This chronic strain of the bladder and urethra (which stretches and weakens the nerves and muscles of the pelvic area), is what contributes to urinary incontinence issues.

Additionally, obesity can lead to incontinence due to immobility. As a result of obesity, some individuals are simply unable to get themselves to a bathroom. In this scenario, the individual often relies on caregivers and incontinence products (brief-style diapers, bed pads, etc.) to help them deal with incontinence.

How Being Overweight Impacts Incontinence in Men vs. Women

Both men and women experience urinary incontinence as a result of being overweight or obese. However, women, especially older women, have a higher likelihood. Childbirth is a big factor as to why more women experience incontinence issues, as well as having a weaker pelvic floor overall. Carrying and then giving birth to a baby significantly stretches and weakens the pelvic floor muscles, making incontinence issues a problem. 

Having a higher BMI significantly increases the chance of urinary incontinence. In fact, an article from BMC Urology stated that a high BMI raised the prevalence of urinary incontinence in individuals, resulting in 7.9% of men and 15.8% of women. This gender disparity also has to do with the fact that the urethral length — the tube that carries urine out of the body — is shorter in women than in men, making women more susceptible to stress incontinence. On the other hand, men often experience incontinence issues due to an enlarged prostate, which does not affect women. So although urinary incontinence is more prevalent in women, men have their own issues as well, and both men and women have a higher likelihood of incontinence due to being overweight or obese.

Weight Loss and Incontinence Management

Just because you’re overweight or obese doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to experience incontinence issues for the rest of your life. In fact, studies show that weight reduction (even just 5% of your total body weight) greatly reduces the frequency of incontinence episodes. According to a medical study, individuals who lost 5-10% of their body weight had significant reductions in urinary incontinence episodes. In fact, most were likely to achieve a 70% reduction in the frequency of total urge incontinence episodes over the course of 6-18 months, and many were very satisfied with their results after losing weight. 

How to Improve Urinary Incontinence Symptoms

There are many ways to improve urinary incontinence issues, especially around your lifestyle and using helpful products. The number one way to improve incontinence issues if you’re overweight or obese is to lose at least 5% of your overall BMI, which puts far less pressure on your bladder. Avoid heavy, processed foods and focus on eating whole foods, protein, and far less processed carbs, sugar, or packaged goods. Aim to exercise more frequently and work on any mindset issues that keep you sedentary or eating poorly. Other amazing ways to treat or improve your incontinence symptoms include: 

  • Pelvic floor exercises and physical activity
  • Moderate fluid intake
  • Increase fiber intake
  • Aim to urinate one more time after you go the first time to make sure you empty your bladder completely
  • Stop smoking
  • Use medications or other clinical treatments
  • Use urinary incontinence products, such as pads and liners, or adult diapers and pull-ups so you can remain confident and secure throughout the day 

Finding the Right Bariatric Incontinence Products

The top type of incontinence product used for obese individuals is bariatric adult briefs. This is due to two reasons:

  • Severely obese individuals are often immobile, meaning they require caregivers to change their incontinence products. The tab-top and tape-top briefs are much easier for caregivers to change without sacrificing any of the performance.
  • At that size, underwear, silhouettes and performance are difficult to manufacture efficiently on modern machinery, making briefs a more convenient choice.

When looking for the right bariatric diapers and briefs, it’s important to look at the following factors:

Some great bariatric diaper options include:

When to Seek Medical Advice

Above all, it’s very important you talk to your doctor to discuss the right treatment plan for you. A medical professional can help determine the best course of action for you or a loved one based on current medications, overall health, and medical history. Your healthcare provider will give you personalized advice and a treatment plan that’s best for your situation, which often involves a multi-pronged approach. 

How Parentgiving Can Help 

Urinary incontinence is a very normal part of life, and there are life-changing products and treatments available. At Parentgiving, we offer the best products and resources available to better manage obesity-related incontinence. Find the right bariatric supplies for you and feel more in control of your body.