What causes urinary incontinence?

Premier Health’s Dr. Jerome Yaklic discusses the causes of urinary incontinence in women. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.


There are a number of causes of urinary incontinence (UI). According to The Office on Women’s Health, temporary urinary incontinence may be caused by:

  • Diuretics—food and drinks that stimulate bladder muscles and/or increase the volume of urine held in the bladder
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Constipation

However, some types of urinary incontinence are more prevalent among women. For instance, stress urinary incontinence (SUI)—urine leakage when pressure is exerted on the bladder during sneezing, coughing, laughing or heavy lifting—is often the result of weakness in the muscles of the pelvic floor. As the Office on Women’s Health points out, urinary incontinence is twice as common in women as in men is because many of the causes of pelvic muscle weakness are unique to women, such as:

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Hysterectomy
  • Menopause

Pelvic muscles may be physically stretched and/or damaged during pregnancy and childbirth, but changes in hormone levels also affect muscle strength and the integrity of the bladder and urethra lining.

Overflow urinary incontinence is often caused by a blockage. Obstructions may result from:

  • Enlarged prostate
  • A tumor along the urinary tract

Other common causes of urinary incontinence include:

  • Overactive bladder muscles
  • Neurological disorders and/or nerve damage
  • Vascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Excess weight

As Dr. Yaklic points out, there are rarer causes of UI, such as holes between the bladder and vagina or fistulas.

Ask your doctor about what may be causing your urinary incontinence.

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