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A/Prof Tan Thiam Chye, Head and Senior Consultant, Dr Tan Kim Teng, Senior Consultant, Adj Assoc Prof Tan Heng Hao, Deputy Chairman and Head and Senior Consultant, and A/Prof John Tee Chee Seng, Senior Consultant, all from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group, discuss the causes of urinary incontinence in women and ways to cope with it.

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence refers to an involuntary loss of urine. Types of incontinence include:

  • Stress urinary incontinence - involuntary loss of urine associated with coughing, sneezing, carrying heavy things and even running or jumping.
  • Urge incontinence - involuntary loss of urine preceded by a sudden strong desire to pass urine and voiding before the ability to reach the toilet.
  • Overflow incontinence - involuntary loss of urine due to an inability to empty the bladder well.

What should you do if you have urinary incontinence?

Mild urinary incontinence may not be troublesome but moderate to severe urinary incontinence can have a drastic effect of a women's quality of life. It can also cause social and hygiene problems.

Table 52.1 Management of incontinence
Types of incontinence Management Comments
Stress urinary incontinencePelvic floor exercisesThis is helpful in mild stress incontinence with success rate of 50%-60%.
Continence surgeryThere are many types of continence procedures but the gold standard is the suburethral sling procedure (figure 52.1). It involves minimally invasive procedure, which can be performed as a day surgery procedure. Its success rate is about 90%.



Urge incontinenceOral medicationMedication will relieve the symptoms in 80%-90%.
Overflow incontinenceMay require clean intermittent draining of urine or placement of continuous urine catheter (tube).May be prone to urinary infection.

These women should seek help from their doctor. Management depends on the type of incontinence and the severity of the condition.

Management of urinary incontinence

Regular pelvic floor exercises can be performed to improve the incontinence in mild cases. In severe cases of stress urinary incontinence, surgical correction by your gynaecologist should be considered.

See next page for information on Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and how to cope with it.

Ref: N18