Often, it starts after the baby’s born: You’re with your friends and a belly laugh causes an embarrassing issue.

This little problem is urinary incontinence, and lots of women — regardless of age — are secretly dealing with it. More than 13 million Americans have incontinence, and women are twice as likely to have it as men, according the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. About 25% to 45% of women suffer from urinary incontinence, defined as leakage at least once in the past year. The rates of urinary incontinence increase with age: 20%-30% of young women, 30%-40% of middle-aged women, and up to 50% of older women suffer from urinary incontinence.

I’m relieved when my patients find the courage to tell me what they’re embarrassed about, says Keri Lijewski, MD, Family Medicine physician with Vibrant Health. “It may be embarrassing, but it doesn’t need to significantly impact the quality of life.

Yet many put up with incontinence needlessly, says Lijewski. “People don’t realize it’s a common medical condition, and that there is help. Many women think it is the new normal or part of having children or going into menopause.”

“Though incontinence is common, there are treatment options for more complicated cases,” says, Michael Tiffany, DO, OB/GYN at Vibrant Health. “There are often simple solutions that work. The key is to determine the underlying factors.”

For example, stress incontinence is caused by conditions that stretch the pelvic floor such as childbirth or weigh gain.  This is the most common type of urinary incontinence in women.

When these muscles can’t support your bladder well, the bladder drops down and pushes against the vagina. Then you can’t tighten the muscles that usually close off the urethra so urine may leak because of the extra pressure on the bladder when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or do other activit

Urge incontinence is caused when the bladder muscle involuntarily contracts and pushes urine out of the bladder. Many times doctors don’t know what causes this. But sometimes the causes ae irritation of the bladder; stress, or conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or stroke.

Overactive bladder is a kind of urge incontinence. But not everyone with overactive bladder leaks urine.

If you’re concerned and want to talk to a Family Medicine Physician, contact Vibrant Health Family Clinics at 715-426-6701