Urinary Incontinence: What Is It?

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What is Urinary Incontinence?

Does this happen to you?

  • Urine leakage related to coughing, sneezing, laughing or physical effort
  • Urine leakage following a strong and sudden desire to urinate
  • Urine leakage following sexual relations
  • Urine leakage without the desire to urinate

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably have urinary incontinence. The good news is that you can reduce or eliminate your symptoms. This site provides information and resources.

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence means that you can’t always control your urination, and you risk wetting your undergarments. It’s considered urinary incontinence as soon as you leak even just a few drops of urine. The condition can become embarrassing, and some people even choose to isolate themselves because of it, but it can be treated.

While urinary incontinence affects women more than men, 1.5 million Canadians of every age suffer from the condition. Childbirth and menopause are critical times for women; 50% of women aged 60 and over suffer from urinary incontinence, and most of them suffer in silence.

Did you know that...?

  • One woman out of two women aged 60 and over suffers from urinary incontinence.
  • Urinary incontinence is a subject that many people don’t speak about with their doctors.
  • Incontinence is incorrectly associated with aging.
  • More than half of women who get treatment for urinary incontinence are completely cured or are extremely satisfied with the improvements achieved.
  • Absorbent undergarments are expensive! You can avoid buying them!

Next: Types of Urinary Incontinence


Biofeedback: Device that keeps a person aware of the control they are exercising on their pelvic floor muscles.

Cystic training (bladder retraining): Determining precise times to urinate, whether or not you feel the need (such as every half hour or two hours), and progressively increasing the interval time by 30-minute blocks until you are urinating every three or four hours. For the treatment of urge incontinence or overactive bladder.

Detrusor: The major muscle in the bladder.

Dysuria: Painful or difficult miction.

Electrotherapy (electrical stimulation): Often combined with biofeedback. Electrical current that causes pelvic floor muscles to contract involuntarily to help the person become aware of them.

Kegel exercices: Created about sixty years ago by Dr. Kegel, these exercises aim to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

Miction: Emptying of the bladder.

Mictional urgency: Frequent and sudden uncontrollable urge to urinate without being able to hold miction for an appropriate moment.

Nocturia: Emission of urine during the night.

Urethral obturator: A sort of plug or tampon inserted into the urethra to prevent urine leakage.

Pelvic floor (or perineum): Group of muscles, nerves and ligaments that control the closing of the bladder, the vagina and the intestines and that holds organs in place. The pelvic floor muscles are usually contracted. When they are relaxed, they make it possible to urinate, defecate and have sexual relations.

Peristalsis: Muscle contraction sequence that pushes food through the digestive system.

Pessary: Device that helps correct a bladder descent or uterine descent.

Polypharmacy: Administration of numerous medications to the same person.

Sling: Bands placed under the urethra that serves as a sort of “hammock” for the bladder to prevent effort-related leakage.

Urodynamics: Series of examinations to fully analyze the bladder’s function.

Voluntary miction: Voluntary decision to urinate


We are pleased to house this series of FAQs supervised by Cara Tannenbaum, from the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

Browse Contents of Urinary Incontinence:

The FAQs are also not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. When you have questions about your health, it is always advisable to ask a health care practitioner.

Health Professional Guide to Urinary Incontinence