Does a cough or sneeze have you wetting yourself?
The sneeze-pee is very common during postpartum, pregnancy, menopause, and chronic coughing.
It is also highly prevalent in patients with obesity, nerve injury to the lower back or pelvic floor muscles, and diabetes.
Having a recent surgery for enlarged prostate (BPH) or prostate cancer also predisposes you to urine leakage when coughing.
This involuntary leakage is a type of stress incontinence.
It can happen in both younger and older patients and affect their quality of life.
If you want to know how to stop urine leakage when coughing, then you are in the right place.
Here you can take a closer look at what it means to be peeing when coughing and the causes that trigger it.
What is stress incontinence?
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) means involuntary urine leakage that happens with an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure can happen because of the pelvic floor or urethral sphincter weakness. (1)
Based on statistics, SUI affects roughly 4% to 35% of adult women. In men, the incontinence prevalence is much lower. It is about 3% to 11% overall, with urge incontinence accounting for 40% to 80% of all male cases. And stress incontinence accounts for less than 10%. (2) (3)
Stress incontinence is not connected to psychological stress. It happens due to an activity or physical movement. For example, coughing, sneezing, effort, or exertion.
So, when you experience incontinence with coughing, you add pressure (stress) to the bladder. And this causes it to leak urine.
Is it normal to pee when you cough?
Stress incontinence during pregnancy and post-partum is common. There can be small amounts of urine leakage when bending, coughing, lifting, exercising, or having sex. Because of the growing baby, the bladder can feel under pressure.
After childbirth, 1 in 3 women might have leakage due to bladder weakness. That is why for many women, the bladder leaks when coughing.
Although stress incontinence is common, it is not normal. The loss of bladder control should be managed.
The symptoms of stress incontinence include urine leakage when you:
- Bend over
- Have sex
- Lift heavy objects
The different bladder leakage problems can vary in severity. Sometimes, the stressed bladder can leak just a drop or two. At other times, urination when coughing can feel like a stream or “squirt” of urine. You should get the bladder muscles in check to mitigate the problem.
Many people who have stress incontinence might feel embarrassed. They tend to limit their physical activities, work, or social life to avoid leaking in public. So, they may isolate themselves.
With treatment, you can work on these insecurities and manage the symptoms. But, first, it is important to recognize the causes. Here, you can take a quick look at what causes stress incontinence.
Why does coughing cause urine leakage?
Wondering why the bladder is leaking when coughing? Urine leakage when coughing can happen due to a change in bladder and abdominal pressure.
The urethra is involved in the normal passing of urine. It is supposed to remain closed until you get to the bathroom.
The force of a cough, like from excessive coughing or sneezing, could add additional pressure. Particularly to an already weakened urethra.
Other contributing factors that could make stress incontinence worse are:
- High-impact activities (i.e., strength training, jumping, or running)
- Smoking (it often leads to frequent coughing)
- Excess body weight
- Illness that triggers chronic coughing (such as lung infection, allergies, asthma, etc.)
According to studies, coughing and having urinary incontinence symptoms can lead to poor quality of life. These results were recorded in both men and women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chronic cough is also associated with social isolation, physical discomfort, depression, and anxiety. (4) (5)
Being obese, overweight, and older can increase the risk of stress incontinence. Women who recently had a vaginal delivery are more likely to develop it than those who delivered via cesarean section.
Dealing with the occasional or often incontinence when sneezing can make the muscles in the urethra weaker. The weaker the urethra, the bigger the number of bladder leaks.
Stress incontinence in males happens when the pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter weaken.
As it fills up with urine, the bladder begins to expand. When the valve-like muscles in the urethra remain closed, they prevent urine leakage. But, with weaker muscles, the force like bending, lifting, or coughing puts pressure, causing leakage.
Stress incontinence in men is often the result of prostate surgery. Surgically removing the prostate gland can lead to urinary incontinence when coughing. The surgical procedure could weaken the sphincter.
Stress incontinence in female patients tends to happen due to childbirth. In women, nerve or tissue damage during delivery can weaken the sphincter and pelvic floor. This often leads to urine leakage when coughing.
7 ways to stop urine leakage when coughing
After figuring out the causes of stress incontinence, it’s important to find ways to manage the problem. With proper strategies, you can restore bladder control, curb stress-induced incontinence, and stop urine leakage when coughing.
Avoiding treating the symptoms can lead to emotional distress, irritation, or mixed incontinence. Mixed incontinence means having both urgency and stress incontinence.
For patients who struggle with urine leakage when sneezing and coughing, a doctor can suggest a combination of strategies to mitigate and stop the problem. These strategies can include:
A healthcare provider can suggest how much and when you should drink fluids throughout the day. Scheduling the fluid intake and avoiding bladder irritants (such as carbonated, caffeinated, and alcoholic drinks) can improve leakage.
If chronic constipation is the reason for the incontinence, then try to incorporate more fiber into your diet. Making the stool softer can reduce the strain on the pelvic floor. Excellent high-fiber foods are veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
Scheduling toileting can help with mixed incontinence. Increasing the amount of time before emptying can diminish the leakage.
Get your FREE bladder diary
- Daily bladder diary
- Better understand your urinary symptoms
- Step-by-step guide
Pelvic floor exercises
Working on your exercise routine and incorporating Kegel exercises can strengthen the sphincter and pelvic floor. But, just like any exercise program, you need to do them regularly and perform them well. This can help with urination when sneezing.
Curbing the extra weight, managing the chronic cough, and avoiding smoking can decrease the risk of stress incontinence. It can also improve the symptoms.
Weight loss can be a key strategy. This can reduce the pressure on the pelvis and bladder. These are some of the most useful self-help techniques.
Options like vaginal pessary and urethral inserts can help with stress incontinence in women. A doctor fits the pessary into place to give the bladder base the support it needs. This can be particularly useful for a prolapsed bladder.
Urethral inserts are disposable devices that can act as a barrier to avoid leakage. They can be used for patients who do heavy activities, like repeated running or lifting.
When the sphincter needs better closure, surgeries might be an option. These include the sling procedure, injectable bulking agents, inflatable artificial sphincter, and Retropubic colposuspension. Only a doctor can suggest the best type of treatment.
Urinary incontinence in women and men is a common problem. But, just because it is common, it doesn’t mean it is normal.
Urine leakage when coughing means that you have stress incontinence. The best treatment options to stop urine leakage when coughing can vary based on what’s causing the problem.
Talk to a doctor if you are often noticing symptoms of stress incontinence. Or if you are trying to avoid important activities because of it.
The doctor can suggest behavior therapies, devices, or surgery. They may recommend you work on your pelvic floor muscles with Kegels, try managing the fluid consumption, or curbing the extra weight.