Help-seeking behaviors of women with urinary incontinence: an integrative literature review

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2006 Nov-Dec;51(6):e39-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jmwh.2006.06.004.


Urinary incontinence (UI) affects approximately 17 million American women. Women with UI have reported a lower quality of life than women who do not experience UI. In many cases, UI affects a woman's ability to take part in a variety of recreational and social activities, and has negative psychological effects including depression, anxiety, and frustration. Studies show that fewer than 50% of women with UI discuss their symptoms with their health care provider. Although researchers have examined help-seeking behaviors in people with UI, few have examined women of all ages with all types of UI. The purpose of this integrative literature review is to summarize the help-seeking behaviors for UI symptoms among noninstitutionalized women of all ages with all types of UI. Five studies were reviewed. In all of the studies, less than 38% of women sought help for their UI symptoms. Factors affecting help seeking included quality of life scores, perceptions women had regarding the normalcy of UI, and beliefs about treatment options available for the problem. Age, type of UI, severity of UI, and embarrassment were found to be significantly related to help-seeking in most, but not all of the studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / prevention & control
  • Urinary Incontinence / therapy*
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / therapy
  • Women's Health*