Tips to Help You Manage Urinary Incontinence

A leaky bladder doesn't have to be a big deal. There are plenty of simple solutions you can try right away to curb your urinary incontinence.

It may be a little bit awkward to discuss with your doctor, but asking for help can often make things better.

"Doctors can always help someone deal with this," says Alan J. Wein, MD, chief of urology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Treatment generally includes a combination of behavior modification -- self-help things you can do -- and, perhaps, medication."

Things that can improve your condition include the following.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Your pelvic floor muscles help you hold your urine. You may leak if the muscles are weakened from pregnancy, prostate surgery, or being overweight.

You can strengthen your muscles to improve symptoms.

The exercise that works these muscles is called a Kegel. "I tell people to do and hold each for as long as you can," Wein says. "Get into the habit of doing them daily, about every 2 waking hours. They can stop leakage or significantly prevent it."

Pelvic floor exercises can also help if you have a sudden urge to urinate.

"They're called quick flicks," Wein says. "Relax and contract the muscles very quickly. Many times, that will abort the sensation of urgency."

Less Liquid

Accidents are more likely when your bladder is full. If you drink too much of anything, even water, you might feel an urgent need to go.

Limit caffeine and alcohol, which make you produce more urine. "You'll run to the toilet all day long," says May M. Wakamatsu, MD, a pelvic medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquid per day. Cut back after 4 p.m. if you leak overnight. But do drink throughout the day. If you don't, your body will still make urine, but it will be concentrated and irritate the lining of your bladder. That can cause more of an urge, says Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, of the urology department at the University of Kansas.

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A Bathroom Schedule

"You can't leak if your bladder is empty," says Craig Comiter, MD, professor of urology at Stanford University School of Medicine. "Urinate before you have the urge, so you don't have an accident. If you know you get the urge every 3 hours, go every 2 1/2 hours."

If you have to go too often, try to extend the amount of time between visits. Combine this practice, called bladder training, with pelvic floor exercises for better success.

"Go every two hours this week, 2 1/4 hours next week," Comiter says. "You only know you waited too long when you have an accident, so this is a home strategy."

Wearable Devices

Placing a support in the vagina may help prevent leaks. Your doctor might fit you with a soft silicone device called a pessary. Or she might suggest you use a tampon to reduce leaks.

"We often recommend tampons for women who just leak when they go running," Wakamatsu says. "You don't want to wear a tampon all the time, but it's convenient for an activity like this."

Remember, you should use no more than 2 tampons a day and change your tampon every 6 hours to prevent toxic shock syndrome.

Weight Loss

Extra weight can lead to leaks because it puts pressure on the bladder or the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder.

"This is mostly related to stress incontinence and leaks from coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting," Griebling says. "Studies have shown that women who are heavier tend to have more problems, and weight loss sometimes can help."

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Stuart Bergman, MD on August 26, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Prevalence of Incontinence in Older Americans."

Craig Comiter, MD, professor of urology, Stanford University School of Medicine.

Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, vice chair, urology, University of Kansas School of Medicine; spokesman, American Urological Association.

May M. Wakamatsu, MD, director, pelvic reconstructive surgery and urogynecology, Massachusetts General Hospital; assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology, Harvard Medical School.

Alan J. Wein, MD, chief of urology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine; co-author, A Woman's Guide to Regaining Bladder Control: Everything You Need to Know for the Diagnosis and Cure of Incontinence.

Continence Product Advisor: "Internal Vaginal Devices."

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