When it comes to treating bladder leakage, women have a wide range of options, from exercises to devices to surgery. Which choice is best for you? It really depends on your personal preferences, how much time, effort, and money you are willing to spend, and which options best fit your lifestyle.
Many women find success using one or more of these non-surgical treatments. Some women, though, choose to skip these options completely and start with surgery. John L. Washington, MD, FACOG, a board-certified urogynecologist in Burlington, North Carolina, believes this is the right choice for some women. "I think it makes sense for a lot of people," he says, stating that non-surgical options often require continuous effort and aren't always completely successful. He adds, "Surgery has about an eighty-five to ninety-five percent success rate and can take a relatively short amount of time, depending on the type of surgery."
For example, stress incontinence is a condition that can sometimes call for surgery. In most cases, the bladder dropping down toward the vagina is the underlying cause of stress incontinence, so a surgical procedure usually involves raising the bladder back to its natural position. After making an incision in the abdomen or vagina, the surgeon repositions the bladder and secures it in place with a type of sling or supportive material that is anchored to a ligament, bone, or muscle. Or in certain situations, a woman might be a candidate to have an artificial sphincter implanted. This device squeezes the urethra closed. To empty her bladder, the woman activates a valve, which is implanted under the skin, releasing pressure on the urethra and allowing it to open.
Surgical repair can often help women regardless of whether they live an active, sedentary, or average lifestyle; however, a woman who is planning to have more children should carefully discuss her options with her doctor. "If a woman is planning to have children, she should put off the surgery," says Washington. "If she cannot do that, then I would advise a Caesarian section for delivery."
The range of treatments available to women for their bladder leakage is wide, from simple exercises at one end to reconstructive surgery at the other. A urologist, urogynecologist, or Ob-Gyn can work closely with you to help you decide which option is best. To find an Ob-Gyn in your area, go to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website at www.acog.org
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