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What Causes SUI?

Front view of bladder.  Weak pelvic muscles allow urine leakage (left).  Strong pelvic muscles keep the urethra closed (right).
Front view of bladder. Weak pelvic muscles allow urine leakage (left).
Strong pelvic muscles keep the urethra closed (right).
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health

The pelvic floor supports the bladder and urethra. If this area gets stretched, weakened or damaged, then SUI can happen. Pregnancy and childbirth can cause this. Chronic coughing or nerve injuries to the lower back or pelvic surgery (like surgery for prostate cancer) can also weaken the muscles.

What increases my risk of getting SUI?

SUI impacts older women most often, however, it is not caused simply by aging or by being female. It happens in younger women and some men too. For some young women, it can result from childbirth, and then improve after time. 

Risk factors for SUI include:

  • Gender: females are more likely to get SUI
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Chronic coughing
  • Nerve injuries to the lower back
  • Pelvic or prostate surgery