Is it normal to "leak" when you sneeze or laugh?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 15, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it normal to "leak" when you sneeze or laugh?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

No; leaking urine while sneezing or laughing isn't normal. But it's a common problem, especially among older women. This type of incontinence is called stress incontinence, because the urine leaks when sneezing, laughing, or other activities cause the body to "bear down," which puts pressure on the bladder.

Normally, the muscles of the pelvic floor help support the bladder and the bladder's neck, so urine doesn't leak out, even when there's extra pressure on the bladder. However, many things can cause the muscles around the bladder to become weaker. The most common cause is pregnancy and childbirth; other causes include having had previous surgeries in the abdomen or pelvis. (Stress incontinence is less common in men, but it can happen after certain types of prostate surgery.) Hormonal changes after menopause can also make weak pelvic muscles worse.

Treating stress incontinence usually involves trying exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles (also called Kegels). Bladder training can also help, as can weight loss.

If you're concerned about leaking urine, or incontinence, always start by getting things checked by a doctor. You'll want to make sure there isn't something other than garden-variety stress incontinence going on. Unfortunately, there are lots of things that can cause urinary incontinence in men and women.

Community Answers

Franpax answered...

As the MD said, it is not normal,i.e. the norm. My urologist tried so many meds to help me. I got to where I had to wear adult diapers. As a last resort his prescribed Imiprimine for me. It is an anti-depressant, with a side effect that most would not want. But it was exactly what worked for me. A side effect of Imiprimine is that it can cause one difficulty in emptying the bladder. It did what it was supposed to do and I have no trouble voiding my bladder.

Bknoll answered...

I had a surgical urniary sling put in. I can live again!! I was scheduled for a month long trip to Egypt and could not go there with using pads all the time. (Bathrooms are very limited). So I did the sling. It works wonderful for me, some people have had problems, but it is few. I was in a study group which was really interesting. I can run, laugh, jump, do jumping jacks even! I was incontinent from my first child at 20 years old. I had the surgery at 46 years old. I am now free to do anything. And I do!!

A fellow caregiver answered...

Check out this article. It has great information about this issue. It is not normal although common and it can be corrected. Well worth it too.