The New York Times Is Right: Incontinence Is NOT Inevitable

The New York Time’s (NYT) Twitter resident gynecologist, Dr. Jen Gunter, had an excellent response to a 63-year old woman who asked if wearing pads for urine leakage was the fate of all women her age and older.1

Dr. Gunter provided an excellent review of the types of incontinence, common causes, and several ways to treat it.  She also notes the difference between menstrual pads, designed to absorb blood and incontinence products that are specifically designed for containing urine. 

Also, noted is one of the common “urban myths” about incontinence, that it is a normal part of aging, one perpetuated by not only women but also health care providers. It is encouraging to see the NYT column address such a distressing and burdensome problem for women of all ages. Dr. Gunter was correct in writing that often women do not seek medical care.  But providers need to ask women about incontinence during well-care visits. 

Screening for incontinence in women was recommended annually by the HRSA-supported Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines updated in December 2019, specifics noted below.2 

Screening for Urinary Incontinence

The Women's Preventive Services Initiative recommends screening women for urinary incontinence annually. Screening should ideally assess whether women experience urinary incontinence and whether it impacts their activities and quality of life. The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends referring women for further evaluation and treatment if indicated.2

The Women's Preventive Services Initiative recommends screening women for urinary incontinence as a preventive service. Factors associated with an increased risk for urinary incontinence include increasing parity, advancing age, and obesity; however, these factors should not be used to limit screening.2

Several screening tools demonstrate fair to high accuracy in identifying urinary incontinence in women. Although minimum screening intervals are unknown, given the prevalence of urinary incontinence, the fact that many women do not volunteer symptoms, and the multiple, frequently-changing risk factors associated with incontinence, it is reasonable to conduct annually.2

Written by: Diane Newman, DNP, CRNP, FAAN, BCB-PMD, Nurse Practitioner (NP), Co-Director, Penn Center for Continence and Pelvic Health Director, Clinical Trials, Division of Urology, Adjunct Professor of Urology in Surgery, Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Published Date: January 16th, 2020


1. "Is Incontinence Inevitable?". 2020. Nytimes.Com. (NYTimes Subscription Required)
2. "Women’S Preventive Services Guidelines | Official Web Site Of The U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration". 2020. Hrsa.Gov.

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