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Problems controlling your bladder or bowel are common, affecting over 5 million Australians, including one in three who have had a baby.


Pelvic floor muscle weakness is a common cause of many continence problems, along with changes to the nerves that control the bladder, bowel or pelvic floor.

Sometimes other health problems such as diabetes can cause incontinence.

Common risk factors include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Being overweight
  • Chronic coughing
  • Constipation
  • Frequent lifting of heavy objects e.g. children, weights at the gym
  • Pelvic or abdominal surgery
  • Some medications.


If you have problems with bladder control you may experience:

  • A need to pass urine often, including overnight.
  • An urgent desire to pass urine – e.g. as soon as you put the key in the door.
  • Poor urine flow.
  • Straining to empty your bladder.
  • Leaking urine when you exert yourself e.g. sneeze, cough, laugh or jump.

If you have problems with bowel control you may experience:

  • An urgent need to open your bowels.
  • Leaking from the bowel.
  • Being unable to control wind.
  • Straining to empty your bowels.

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose continence issues, a doctor will take your medical history and conduct a physical examination. They may ask you to keep a diary to track when you go to the toilet. Urine specimens can also be taken to check for infection.

Lifestyle and dietary actions can often help manage incontinence. These can include healthy lifestyle choices and pelvic floor exercises. Your Family Planning doctor can advise you on these.

Other treatments include:

  • Pelvic floor exercises/rehabilitation.
  • Oestrogen therapies and other medication.
  • Fitting a vaginal pessary.

Family Planning Tasmania services

Family Planning offers the following continence services:

  • Continence assessment – medical history and examination and tests if required.
  • Continence management plan which may include:
    • Lifestyle measures
    • Medication
    • Pessary fitting – insertion of a ring pessary to hold up the bladder neck
    • Ongoing pessary care
    • Recommendation/referral to a pelvic floor physiotherapist
    • Referral for surgery

Contact us for an appointment.

If you need assistance, advice or treatment for incontinence or any other sexual or reproductive health issue, please make an appointment with one of our friendly doctors.

This content is provided for general information and education purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances. It is not to be relied on in substitution for specific advice from a medical professional and Family Planning Tasmania does not accept responsibility for such use. Family Planning Tasmania has taken every effort to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate, however information and knowledge is subject to change. Family Planning Tasmania advises that you always consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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