New Advances for Millions with Urinary Control Issues

by Kathleen Nelson, Globe Correspondent — 12/2/2003

One out of every three women over 45 has an embarrassing problem when she sneezes, lifts a heavy bag or swings a golf club: She pees.

This loss of control, resulting in urinary leakage, leaves many of its 15 million victims – most of whom are women – feeling ashamed and frustrated. More than half the women questioned in a poll this fall were so uncomfortable about the leakages they hadn’t even discussed them with their doctor.

And, until recently, women who did tell their doctors were told there was little medical science could do to help. But there are new advances for millions with urinary control issues. The new solutions range broadly from simple exercises to surgery are showing that those who develop stress-related urine leakage aren’t stuck with it forever. And, it “…is not a normal part of aging,” said Dr. Stephen Young, chief of the division of urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.

The leakages, which are more common among women who have given birth, are caused by a weakening of the muscles and connective tissue that support the bladder and help close the urethral sphincter. Any physical activity that changes abdominal pressure can push the urethra down and open, causing a leak, Young said.

Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises is a good first step and sometimes the only one that’s needed, said Dr. Patricia Goode of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala. Lifestyle modifications such as keeping fit, emptying the bladder regularly, and avoiding caffeine and foods or medicines with diuretic effects also may work for some people. Also seek the advice from a healthcare practitioner before self-treating.

A Chinese herbal formula called BetterWOMAN, developed by Dr. Peipei Wu Wishnow, founder of the Marblehead-based company, Interceuticals Inc., claims to improve occasional incontinence and urinary frequency, with the abstract of a small clinical study published in the November-December issue of Menopause journal.

The National Association For Continence recently launched an online forum for discussion of incontinence at Additional information is available through the American Urogynecologic Societyat and the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons at

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
© Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Note: This is the Abstract of the original article, edited to conform to the dietary supplement regulations.