Urinary Incontinence (UI) is the involuntary loss of urine. The three most common types of UI are named after the physiologic causes of urine leakage:

  • Stress UI (SUI) occurs when you laugh, sneeze, get up suddenly or lift something (or someone) heavy.
  • Urge UI, also known as overactive bladder (OAB), occurs when you get a sudden urge and you know you really, really have to go.
  • Mixed UI is a combination of stress and urge UI.

A fourth, less common type of UI is overflow UI, which occurs when the bladder’s capacity is exceeded as the result of urinary retention (inability to void).

The first three types of UI are extremely common and most women will experience UI at some point. Although UI prevalence increases with age, it is emphatically not an inevitable consequence of aging and there are numerous interventions, ranging from vaginal weight training, biofeedback, stimulation and other conservative therapies to surgery.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse occurs when your bladder or another pelvic organ drops from its normal position and pushes against the wall of the vagina. Prolapse can sometimes cause you to feel like you’re sitting on a ball or it can cause urinary problems like feeling like you need to go all the time or make sex painful.

Prolapse is typically the result of muscle or ligament damage in childbirth – that and the fact that gravity is unavoidable. We’re all too familiar with how gravity affects our outsides, but it has the same kind of effect on our insides.

Prolapse is very common and estimates are that 1 in 3 women will experience some degree of prolapse. The most common interventions for prolapse are vaginal pessaries and surgery.

Recommended Reading concerning urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse:

  1. Silicone Pessaries for Pelvic Support, part of the EvaCare Education Series:
  2. The Use and Care of Pessaries:
  3. Stress Urinary Incontinence, a publication of the American Urogynecologic Society:
  4. Pelvic Organ Prolapse, a publication of the American Urogynecologic Society:
  5. Vaginal Pessaries, a publication of the American Urogynecologic Society:

Medical Societies concerned with pelvic health:

Patient Groups concerned with urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse: