Having an overactive bladder can affect many aspects of everyday living, but it can take a particularly hard toll on your sex life. Physical symptoms such as pain during intercourse and urine leakage during sex or orgasm are not uncommon, and it's often a difficult topic to discuss with a partner. In a study reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, more than 23 percent of individuals with an overactive bladder reported that it negatively impacted their sex life.

Jill Rabin, MD, chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics and gynecology and head of urogynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY explains how the anxiety produced by OAB affects couples. "Two out of every 5 women under age 60 and 3 of every 5 women over 60 suffer with an overactive bladder," the expert says adding, "Worrying about whether or not you are going to leak when you are kissing and cuddling can make people not want to have sex."

However, researchers in the study concluded that, while an overactive bladder can negatively affect sexual function, women can significantly improve both sexual function and marital relationships when the issue is properly addressed.

What Causes Overactive Bladder?

Being female is the biggest factor in developing the problem and giving birth a major cause, Rabin explains. "After having a baby, the nerves in that area don't contract as well as they did previously." Other factors that contribute to the development of an overactive bladder include: blood vessel disease and menopause. Menopausal women produce less estrogen, which is the hormone that preserves the health of the bladder and urethra. Getting older can also cause an overactive bladder, simply because the bladder muscle is aging.

Female physiology is another reason, Rabin says. "Women have a much shorter urethra than men which also puts them at increased risk for an overactive bladder."

Effective Treatments Are Available

The good news is there are several options—both medical treatments and lifestyle related changes—that can improve your sex life:

  • Do your Kegels. Pelvic floor muscle exercises, also called Kegel exercises, strengthen both the pelvic floor muscles and the urinary sphincter and can be done anywhere, Rabin points out. "If you can do 10 sets a day, you will find that your bladder is less active and that your pelvic floor is more supported," she says. "They can be done while you're brushing your teeth, sitting in your office or even while dining out. Kegels are so discreet no one can tell you're doing them."

  • Oral medications and skin gel are available, too. Sometimes applying a low-dose, topical estrogen cream can rejuvenate the tissues in the area and relieve the symptoms of an overactive bladder. "We are finding that combining exercise and medication works better than either one alone," Rabin says. "If this doesn't work, surgery is another option but OAB usually isn't a surgical problem."

  • Lifestyle changes can make a difference. Since one risk factor of an overactive bladder is blood vessel disease, smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy weight, and treating high blood pressure can help improve the symptoms of overactive bladder—and help your sex life, too.



Sand, PK, et al. "The impact of the overactive bladder syndrome on sexual function: a preliminary report from the multicenter assessment of transdermal therapy in overactive bladder with oxybutynin trial."

"Urinary incontinence".  The Mayo Clinic.