What Are the First Symptoms of Incontinence?

Though there are gender-related differences, incontinence is common in men and women. In fact, more than 25 million Americans live with incontinence, according to the American Urological Association (AUA).

The first symptoms of incontinence may appear in men after surgery or prostate-related issues, while women may experience their first symptoms during menopause or following childbirth. If you have an incontinence risk factor, it can be helpful to know the symptoms so that you can be prepared.

couple enjoying time together outdoors

A couple enjoying time together outdoors. Although women and older individuals are more likely to experience incontinence, it can occur to anyone. Knowing the early symptoms of incontinence will help you meet them head-on.

What Are the Risk Factors for Urinary Incontinence?

Risk factors are characteristics you may have that can increase your chances of developing incontinence. Some of these include:

  • Your age: As you age, your urethra and bladder muscles become weaker. This reduces how much fluid your bladder can hold and how well it can keep it in, increasing your chance of leakage.
  • Family history: If a close relative is living with incontinence, particularly urge incontinence, you have a higher risk of developing this condition.
  • Smoking: Urinary incontinence can be brought on by tobacco use and smoking
  • Diseases: If you have diabetes or a neurological condition like Parkinson's, these may increase your incontinence risk.
  • Your gender: Women are a lot more likely to experience stress incontinence due to childbirth, menopause, and the female anatomy itself. Yet, many men with prostate gland issues are at a higher risk of overflow and urge incontinence.
  • Your weight: Excess weight can put added strain and pressure on your bladder and the muscles that surround it. This can weaken your muscles, allowing urine to discharge when you sneeze or cough.

What Are Symptoms of Incontinence?

If you think you may be at risk for urinary incontinence, it can be helpful to know the signs and symptoms to watch out for, including:

  • Leaking during everyday activities, including bending, lifting, exercising, coughing, or sneezing
  • Difficulty reaching the toilet before going
  • Leakage during sex
  • Wetting the bed while you sleep
  • Feeling a strong, sudden urge to urinate and being unable to hold it in
  • Urine leakage with no urge or warning

Bowel, or fecal, incontinence symptoms will depend on the type you have:

  • Passive: With passive fecal incontinence, you may unknowingly expel mucus or stool from your anus
  • Urge: If you are living with urge fecal incontinence, you will feel the need to use the bathroom but will be unable to prevent your stool from passing before reaching the toilet

In addition, medical experts will say that mucus- or stool-stained underwear, also known as soiling, is a symptom of fecal incontinence.

Symptoms to See Your Doctor About

If you are living with incontinence, you should consult your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Urinary retention: A symptom of urinary retention is when you can’t empty your bladder or pass urine.
  • Blood in your urine: The presence of blood in your urine is also called
  • Frequency: This is when you make more than eight trips to the bathroom a day to urinate.
  • Painful urination: Painful urination could be a sign of a bladder infection.

Any of these symptoms can be a sign of a more serious condition, including cystitis (bladder inflammation) or bladder cancer.

How Is Urinary Incontinence Diagnosed?

A proper incontinence diagnosis is essential to guide your doctor's treatment decisions.

If you’re experiencing signs of incontinence, your doctor or nurse will inquire about your symptoms and medical history and may ask questions including:

  • What medicines you’re taking
  • When your symptoms began
  • How often you go to the bathroom
  • How much bladder leakage you are experiencing
  • If you’ve ever been pregnant (woman) and how your labor and delivery experience went
  • Whether you’ve had prostate surgery (men) or have a medical condition that can cause incontinence

Your healthcare team will then perform a physical exam to identify health issues that may cause incontinence. Your nurse or doctor may also perform tests including:

  • Urine test or urinalysis: Your doctor will have your urine analyzed by a lab to check for an infection, blood, or other abnormalities that may be causing your incontinence.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound technician will use a wand outside your body to take pictures of your urethra, kidneys, and bladder. Your doctor will then examine the images for anything unusual that may be triggering the incontinence.
  • Urodynamics: Your doctor will fill your bladder with water using thin tubing. This test allows your urologist to monitor the amount of fluid your bladder can hold.
  • Bladder stress test: With this test, your doctor will check for a loss of urine after you cough or bear down as if you were having a bowel movement.
  • Cystoscopy: During this procedure, your doctor will look for damaged tissue by inserting a tiny camera into your bladder through your urethra.

In addition, your doctor may advise you to track your bladder leaks using a journal. Doing this may help them spot patterns in your incontinence that may offer clues regarding cause and treatment.

Incontinence Complications

If you are noticing symptoms of incontinence, you could experience complications including:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): If you’re not careful, incontinence may increase your risk of having multiple urinary tract infections
  • Skin issues: Constantly wet skin can cause you to develop sores, skin infections, and rashes
  • An impact on your work and personal life: Learning to live with incontinence can take time, and at first, it may impact your work, personal life, and social relationships.

You Don't Have to Be Embarrassed by Incontinence

For many people encountering signs of incontinence, medical care, dietary, or lifestyle changes can alleviate or eliminate the condition. For those living with chronic bladder or bowel leakage, you don't have to be embarrassed about your circumstances. That’s because you’re not alone.

The Urology Care Foundation predicts that one quarter to one-third of U.S. citizens live with some form of incontinence. This statistic means that most of us have relatives and acquaintances with bladder or bowel control issues.

Many can live their lives free from shame by using disposable absorbent underwear like those from Made for Living. Our soft, cloth-like pull-ups pants wear and feel just like standard underwear; however, they include a superabsorbent core, a soft cloth-like top sheet, a form-fitting waistband, plus leg guards to keep moisture and odors locked inside.

You can also tear them at the sides so that you can throw them away more quickly when they're soiled.

Do You Have Incontinence Symptoms? Made for Living Is Here for You

At Made for Living, we feel incontinence is a natural condition nobody should be embarrassed or ashamed of. Yet, if you have incontinence symptoms, we understand you don’t want it announced to the world by wetting your clothes or furniture.


That’s why we are proud to offer high-quality disposable absorbent underwear delivered to your door. Call or fill out our online form today and receive our welcome package with multiple sizes so that you can find the fit that’s right for you.

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