Like it or not, urinary incontinence is a fact of life for many people. It can happen as we get older, and for women during pregnancy or after birth, even as the result of a persistent cough. What can you do to take control?
For answers, WebMD went to the American Urological Association and Craig Comiter, MD, associate professor of urology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Here are their tips on how to take matters into your own hands -- and make living with urinary incontinence a lot easier.
Which Type of Urinary Incontinence Do You Have?
Urinary incontinence (UI) is the involuntary loss of urine and "it's a common condition" in men and women of all ages, says the American Urological Association. The two main types of urinary incontinence are:
- Stress incontinence, which can cause leakage when you cough, sneeze, exercise, laugh, or strain to lift something heavy.
- Urge incontinence, which is an unexpected, sudden urge to urinate, one that's so strong it can be hard to reach the bathroom in time.
No matter which type of urinary incontinence you have, simple behavioral tips can help you deal day to day.
8 Quick Tips for Coping With Urinary Incontinence
1. Do Kegel Exercises. An important urinary incontinence treatment, Kegels are especially effective for women with mild symptoms, says Comiter. "I would advocate Kegel exercises as the most commonly used initial treatment."
Kegels are simple to do: Simply clench and unclench your pelvic floor muscles. Which muscles are those? Next time you pee, stop the stream of urine midway. Presto! You've just found your pelvic floor muscles and done your first Kegel.
But don't make a habit of stopping your urine when you pee, as it can actually weaken muscles. Do Kegels anywhere and everywhere else, though: while online, on hold, or in the car. Start by clenching your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, then release for three. Repeat ten times. As you develop strength over time, aim to hold the muscles for ten seconds and release for ten.
2. Stick to a Pee Schedule. Don't feel like you need to go? Head to the bathroom anyway. Why? Timed urination helps keep the bladder empty, Comiter tells WebMD, and "empty bladders cannot leak." It might take a little time to discern the schedule that's best for you, but Comiter recommends starting with a timed urination every one to two hours.
3. Fill the Void. And don't be in a hurry when you're in the bathroom. Take your time in there and after you've finished urinating, relax a bit and then urinate again -- this practice, called double voiding, helps really empty the bladder.
4. Keep the Path Clear. Having accidents before you make it to the bathroom? It's time to clear your path of obstacles so you can get there faster. And then help yourself once you're there by wearing easy-to-release clothes -- think elastic waistbands and Velcro closures.