Urination: Why Am I Leaking Urine while Running?

I am a 14-year-old cross-country runner. Sometimes when I run, I experience urinary leakage. Is this stress incontinence? What can I do to correct the problem? Do I need to see a doctor?

-- Annie

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To answer your last question, yes, you should see a doctor. A gynecologist (perhaps a urogynecologist, a subspecialist in this area) or a urologist will be able to evaluate you to determine why you are leaking. Incontinence at your age is very unusual, especially genuine stress urinary incontinence. Stress urinary incontinence most often arises from damage to the pelvic floor muscles as a result of pregnancy or aging. We are learning, though, that some women are deficient in collagen, and inadequate or weak collagen can lead to stress incontinence in young women who have never been pregnant.

In the meantime, while you are waiting to see a doctor, there are a few things you can do to minimize leakage while running. First, empty your bladder BEFORE you run. Second, practice Kegel exercises regularly. A Kegel is a contraction of the pelvic floor -- you tighten up the muscles in your vagina, like you are trying to hold a marble inside and bring it up towards the top of your vagina. Another trick is to insert a tampon before you run; this can sometimes put enough pressure on the urethra to prevent leakage. But be sure to remove the tampon and empty your bladder again as soon as the run is over.

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