Who is affected

Over 4.8 million Australians are affected by some form of incontinence.
The problem is widespread and affects people of all ages.
Approximately 1.3 million people experience faecal incontinence.

Research studies show that urinary incontinence affects:  


  • One in three women who have ever had
    a baby.
  • Research outcomes range from 4.4% to 13%, depending on how urinary incontinence is defined in each study (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2006).
  • 40% of people aged over 75.


Pregnancy and the effects of childbirth can result in weakened pelvic floor muscles.  Australian research has found that one in three women who have had a baby wet themselves. This leaking happens when there is an increase in pressure within the abdomen, such as with coughing, sneezing, lifting heavy objects or when exercising. 
As women get older the pelvic floor muscles will tend to get weaker.  Following menopause there is a higher risk that women will experience leakage.
The leaking is not likely to go away unless the pelvic floor muscles are strengthened by exercises.  It is important that pelvic floor muscle exercises are conducted correctly as research shows that 40% of women do not contract their muscles correctly.  For information, advice or the contact details for your local women's health and continence physiotherapist please contact us on (08) 9386 9777.


Whilst incontinence is not an inevitable consequence of ageing, seniors do face an increased risk of developing incontinence. The following conditions and diseases are examples that can result in incontinence problems in seniors.

  • Poor dexterity skills affecting the ability to toilet effectively. Examples of diseases that may affect dexterity include arthritis, cerebrovascular disease (stroke) and Parkinson’s disease. 
  • Poor mobility affecting the ability to reach the toilet on time. The diseases listed above may also affect mobility.
  • Poor vision affecting the ability to locate toilet facilities.
  • Decreased ability to recognise the need to empty the bladder and/ or bowel. Examples of diseases which may affect recognition of the need to empty the bladder and bowel includes neurological conditions such as dementia, stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and may also occur following pelvic surgery.
  • Decreased bladder capacity due to age related changes that result in the bladder tending to become more sensitive and unstable. This can make it more difficult to defer urination following awareness of a full bladder.
  • Decreased circulating levels of the Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH), resulting in increased urine production at night. Increased night time urine production may also be affected by swollen limbs that resolves with bed rest and contributes to an increase in urine production. These factors combined with a smaller bladder capacity result in the need for seniors to wake at night in order to empty their bladder (nocturia). If toilet facilities are not easily accessible incontinence may occur.


Generally day time bladder control occurs around two years of age.  All children develop at different rates and some children find it more difficult to gain control than others. Daytime wetting in children aged over five should be checked by a paediatrician who specialises in bladder problems in children.
Bedwetting is a common childhood problem that generally responds well to treatment.  Bedwetting causes stress for both children and parents and can lead to loss of self-esteem and lack of confidence.  Night-time control is usually acquired by five and a half years of age. Help should be sought for children aged over five and a half years if bedwetting persists.  Bedwetting affects more boys than girls, and is common in families where parents have themselves been bed wetters.

Faecal incontinence (soiling)

Encopresis (or soiling) is a common problem affecting many children. It usually occurs between the ages of 2-8 years. At some stage the child holds back the normal process of passing bowel motions (poo). Overtime this can cause the bowel to no longer work effectively and  poo can be passed accidently. Help should be sought immediately.


More than half of all men aged 50 and over experience prostate and urinary problems.  The symptoms of urinary problems in men are:

  • Difficulty starting the flow of urine
  • Slow stream
  • The need to pass urine more frequently
  • Dribbling urine after urination or between visits to the toilet
  • Having to go again shortly after you’ve already been
  • Feeling an urgency to urinate
  • Burning, discomfort or even pain while urinating
  • Urine that is blood stained

Incontinence is one of the most common reasons the elderly move into long term residential care facilities such as nursing homes.

Do you have any questions?

Please contact the Continence Advisory Service and speak to a qualified continence advisor

(08) 9386 9777 metropolitan callers
1800 814 925 WA country callers only.

OR please click here to view the frequently asked questions page.

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