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Research Shows Urinary Incontinence Affects Work Life

Posted Sep 04 2012 8:02am

Work is stressful. But when the added strain of a medical condition keeps you from performing your best, the workday can be even more worrisome.

Stress incontinence is a medical condition caused when the muscles and nerves that hold or release urine fail to function properly. This results in an involuntary loss of small to significant amounts of urine during movement (for example, coughing, exercising or lifting).

Women are much more likely than men to experience urinary incontinence. In fact, incontinence can cause monthly on-the-job, performance-related issues for more than one-third of women in the work-force. According to a study by the University of Michigan, women who indicated that incontinence had a negative effect on their work stated their ability to complete tasks without interruption (34%) and their self-confidence (28%) were affected significantly (see chart).

Negative impact of incontinence on work performance

Aspect of work Percent
Ability to complete tasks without interruption 34%
Performance of physical activities 29%
Self-confidence 28%
Ability to concentrate 19%


Stress incontinence can be embarrassing to the people it afflicts. It can also create feelings of powerlessness. Employers can help by ensuring appropriate access to toilets (this means allowing employees reasonable use of toilets, especially if they have a medical condition) and that these comply with relevant regulations and standards.

Employees with urinary incontinence should have a candid discussion with their manager about their condition. This will help assure he or she understands that frequent trips to the restroom are medically necessary and not performance related.

There are ways to relieve the embarrassment caused by stress incontinence. Several treatments: lifestyle, behavioural and surgical are available, and your doctor or urologist should be able to recommend the ones best for you.


Use absorbent incontinence pads or incontinence pants . Limit physical activity as much as possible to prevent pressure on the bladder. Also take frequent bathroom breaks.

Bladder training

Your physician will ask you to record the times and frequency of bathroom breaks to determine a pattern. A schedule will be developed so you gain control over your voiding and can extend the time between scheduled trips to the restroom.

Pelvic Floor (Kegel) exercises

Pelvic Floor exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. If done correctly, women could see marked improvement with incontinence in about eight to 12 weeks.
Remember, you’re not alone. Millions of people the world over have daily, severe incontinence, and many more are diagnosed with mild to moderate urinary incontinency. The condition is more prevalent in women due to childbearing, with a 30% report rate for women ages 15 to 64. Men are less affected, about 15%, but the rates are rising as more men undergo prostate surgery. The best news is that it is treatable. If you or someone you know is affected by incontinence, talk with a medical professional about treatments.

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