Does sex make incontinence worse?
Many people living with incontinence worry about the impact of incontinence on their social life, relationships and sex life. If you have concerns about incontinence in the bedroom, you’re not alone. Here’s how you can continue to enjoy a healthy sex life.
How common is incontinence?
Over 4 million people are currently living with incontinence in Australia(1), yet incontinence is an issue that many people are uncomfortable talking about. One study by the British Journal of General Practice revealed only 32% of women aged 45 and over with urinary incontinence actually discussed the issue with their GP(2).
Embarrassment about leakage can lead to a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression, as well as a reduced desire for sexual intimacy.
The most common form of urinary incontinence is stress incontinence(3). This is when extra pressure on the abdomen, from movement such as exercise, coughing or laughing, affects the bladder and leads to urine leaking. Stress incontinence can also affect sexual activity and result in leakage during sex.
Incontinence can sometimes feel debilitating, but it shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying any aspect of your life, whether it’s embracing exercise, establishing a new relationship or enjoying sexual activity.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to manage incontinence in your sex life.
Go to the toilet before sex and empty your bladder. Waiting a few minutes and then repeating urination can help remove more urine from your bladder. It can also help to urinate after sexual activity.
Use protective bed sheets such as MoliCare Bed Mats or have a towel on standby for use in the event of leakage.
Try a different sexual position, such as lying on your side. This may remove the pressure on your bladder muscles and reduce the likelihood of leakage.
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. A continence nurse advisor or a women’s/men’s health or pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you learn more about exercising the right muscles.
Have the conversation
Open communication with your partner about incontinence can help alleviate your concerns about sexual activity.
Use continence products
Whether you’re inside or outside the bedroom, using continence products can also help ease the discomfort and provide a convenient solution to your bowel and bladder problems.
Pull-up pants fit just like normal underwear while others, like continence pads and male-specific pads, sit easily inside your normal underwear. To ensure you’re comfortable, choose the right continence products, including selecting the right size, absorbency level and style to suit your needs.
If you still have concerns, seek medical advice about further options, including surgery or professional counseling. It’s important to remember that incontinence can be managed effectively. There’s no need for incontinence to hamper your quality of life, well-being or daily activities.
 The economic impact of incontinence in Australia, 2011. Deloitte Access Economics report The Economic Impact of Incontinence in Australia | Continence Foundation of Australia
 Needs assessment of women with urinary incontinence in a district health authority, 2001.
 Deutchman M, Wulster-Radcliffe M. Stress urinary incontinence in women: diagnosis and medical management. MedGenMed. 2005