I’ve been stifling my laugh ever since it started making me leak a little. Is this something I have to learn to live with?

Don’t give up on laughing! There are things you can try, fortunately for you and for the many other post-menopausal women who experience leaking while laughing, coughing, or during intimacy. Incontinence is often a result the declining muscle tone in the pelvic floor that comes from a reduction in estrogen. And since the pelvic floor surrounds the vagina, its ability to help out with orgasm and that nice, firm vaginal embrace is compromised, too. 

Depending on the type of incontinence you have, (urge and stress incontinence are the two major sub-types), treatment options could be very simple. With bladder training, for example, you set a timer and wait for increasingly longer periods before urinating to “retrain” the bladder (and yourself). This method coupled with Kegel exercises, which can help keep our organs in place and functioning well, can cut urge incontinence problems in half, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Localized estrogen may also be something you want to consider. Surgical procedures, in addition to carrying all the risks of major surgeries, are controversial and without good long-term outcomes. One-third of women who have had surgery for incontinence return for a second surgery.

The crazy thing is that about half of women will experience some level of incontinence or prolapse in the course of a lifetime often without saying a word, sometimes for decades. So if you’re experiencing any kind of bladder issues, be sure to talk with your doctor about it. Just because these conditions are predicted for our age group doesn’t mean you have to put up with them.

Paying attention to your body is the first step to good health, but don’t neglect the second: Seeking help when something’s not right.