What causes urinary

Updated on 16/05/2019

There are so many factors that can influence the ability to achieve and maintain continence. While most cases of urinary incontinence will have a physiological cause, other factors such as the environment, social and psychological influences cannot be overlooked when considering why someone has become incontinent.

Natural causes


In the last few months of pregnancy and during labour there is a lot of pressure inside your abdomen. This can cause some women to leak urine or stools. In most cases these problems are temporary and can be treated simply by pelvic floor exercises.

The Menopause

The hormonal changes that occur with the menopause can contribute to urinary incontinence. In particular, they mean that the bladder wall and the muscles of the lower abdomen, which control continence, become less elastic. Many women have urinary problems (usually reversible) at this time of their life.


As you get older, so too do the body’s cells. This means that the various systems for maintaining the body gradually become less effective. The bladder and its sphincters are themselves affected by natural ageing: they don’t work quite as well with the passage of time. This is why elderly people aren’t as good at sensing when they need to urinate, which often leads to urinary incontinence.

What is more, the body produces a hormone that concentrates urine during the night, so that the bladder fills up more slowly when we’re asleep. After the age of 50, less of this useful hormone is produced. The bladder then fills up more rapidly overnight, and you may sometimes have an extremely pressing urge to urinate at night.

Pathological causes

Neurological and degenerative illnesses.The bladder and the muscular sphincters are controlled by the nervous system, so a neurological disorder can cause urinary incontinence.

Surgery on the lower abdomen

This can cause the bladder to tilt, leading to urinary incontinence or damaging the sphincters. You are at greater risk of urinary incontinence if you have had several operations of this type.

Gynaecological problems

Infections of the vulva and vagina sometimes occur at the same time as a urinary tract infection and lead to urination problems.

Urological disorders

Prostate problems are sometimes accompanied by urinary retention.

Urinary tract infections

These can cause women to leak urine, particularly if they already suffer from urinary incontinence.

Iatrogenic causes

The term “iatrogenic” refers to harmful effects that may be caused by medical treatment. A catheter that is left in place for too long can irreparably damage the urethra. Multiple medication or self-medication: sometimes the interaction between several different drugs or inappropriate treatment can trigger urinary problems. Some drugs that treat one form of incontinence can also contribute to another one.

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