Leaking? When and How to Discuss Incontinence with Your Health Care Provider

This week is Bladder Health Awareness Week and the National Association for Continence (NAFC) reported in this infographic that nearly two thirds of women with urinary incontinence have not discussed their symptoms with a health care provider. In addition, NAFC reported that on average, women wait six and a half years from the first time they experience symptoms until they obtain a diagnosis for their bladder control problems.

There are several reasons that cause women to delay seeking treatment for urinary incontinence and we’ll discuss two of the most prevalent reasons here. First, breaching the subject with any one, let alone a health care provider, can be embarrassing! It’s important to remember that this is something that physicians talk about daily. To us, it’s science and your bladder health can be a telling sign of your overall health. Another reason why women delay seeking treatment is because, for too long, they have been told that incontinence is just an unfortunate part of aging, something they had to deal with. Over the past several years, the number and variety of treatment options for incontinence have greatly increased and that myth couldn’t be farther from the truth.

When to Seek Treatment

If you only experience the occasional leakage, you may not need to or you may not be interested in seeking treatment. However, if you’re experiencing the symptoms below, we recommend you make an appointment with a health care provider:

  • You are embarrassed about the symptoms you are experiencing
  • You are avoiding certain social or physical activities for fear that your symptoms will strike
  • You often rush to the bathroom, but you don’t always make it in time
  • You are going to the restroom more often than you used to (this may or may not include getting up in the middle of the night)
  • You feel like you are not emptying your bladder completely when you use the restroom
  • You feel like your urine stream has gotten weaker
  • You are experiencing pain while urinating
  • You have had a recent surgery (i.e., hysterectomy or C-section) and are experiencing leakage
  • You are unable to urinate


Preparing to Talk with a Health Care Provider

Before you visit with a health care provider, we recommend you consider the following questions. Knowing the answers to these questions can help ensure you have a fruitful conversation.

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?
  • How frequent are your symptoms?
  • Are there certain conditions or events that lead to your frequency, urgency or incontinent episodes?
  • What strategies are you currently using to cope with your symptoms?


Just like any medical condition, an appointment with your health care provider can help you determine the best course of treatment based on your individual health and medical history. Don’t just assume the problem you are experiencing is a “normal” part of aging or something that women just have to “deal” with. At Virginia Women’s Center, our urologist, Dr. Lonny Green, our urogynecologist, Dr. Tovia Smith, and their staff work to find the best individualized treatment plan for women who are experiencing leakage.