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Stress Urinary Incontinence

When a simple cough, sneeze or physical activity such as exercise or dancing leads to urinary leakage, stress incontinence is the likely culprit.

The female bladder and urethra—the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of your body—are located just above the vagina. The vaginal wall typically provides the necessary support to the urethra to keep you dry and leak-free. The stronger the vaginal wall, the firmer the urethra floor, which allows the tube to close itself shut like a stepped-on garden hose. If weakened and stretched by pregnancy, childbirth, and/or aging, there is not enough urethral strength and support to completely close or shut off the “hose,” leading to urinary leakage.

Labor and vaginal delivery put women at higher risk of developing stress incontinence at any age, but individuals who have never had children can also suffer from this highly treatable condition.


Urine loss that occurs with physical exertion is the hallmark of stress incontinence. Activities and physical functions that may cause the condition, especially when you have a full bladder, include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Laughing
  • Bending over/Standing up
  • Lifting something heavy
  • Jogging

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your NorthShore urogynecologist will ask about your medical history and conduct a focused pelvic exam. The Center for Pelvic Health offers an array of diagnostic tests that can conveniently be performed in the office, including multichannel urodynamics.

The Center offers numerous treatment options for stress incontinence:

  • Kegel exercises for pelvic floor strengthening
  • Pelvic floor physical therapy 
  • Pessaries
  • Urethral bulking injections
  • Surgery: midurethral slings, non-mesh slings and suture-based incontinence repairs

For More Information

To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 224.251.CFPH (2374)