Incontinence may be common, underreported in young women

July 25, 2012

Urinary incontinence may be a common problem among young women who have never been pregnant, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Urinary incontinence may be a common problem among young women who have never been pregnant, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2012; 157:I-36).

Researchers from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia conducted a survey of Australian women between the ages of 16 and 30 years who had never been pregnant to investigate the rate of urinary incontinence, its potential risk factors, and effect on quality of life. Women were recruited at six medical clinics in diverse geographic locations, two allied health clinics, and three university campuses. Researchers reviewed 1,002 questionnaires and found that 12.6% reported urinary incontinence.

Women who reported having ever been sexually active and who were not currently using oral contraceptives had the highest rate of urinary incontinence. Young women experiencing urinary incontinence had an increased sense of shame and fear of humiliation. More than one-third of the women with incontinence at least sometimes wore pads to keep dry. They also reported worrying about leakage and body odor, suggesting that incontinence has adverse effects on behavior and psychological well-being for young women.

In contrast to previous studies, the researchers did not find an association between incontinence and age, body mass index, physical activity, or past urinary tract infections.

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