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Slideshow: Managing Your Incontinence at Work

Managing Incontinence on the Job

Whether you're teaching a room full of 6-year-olds or sitting through endless meetings at the office, getting through the workday can be a challenge if you have an overactive bladder. Making certain changes to your routine can help control incontinence, so you'll feel more confident on the job.

Wear Dark Colors

You might have to give a big presentation. Or you might just have a meeting with the boss. Either way, your nerves may be especially frayed if you're worried about visible leakage. Put your mind at ease by wearing dark slacks or a skirt, which will hide small amounts of moisture. You can also keep a jacket or cardigan handy to tie around your waist in a pinch, as well as an extra set of underwear.

Schedule Bathroom Breaks

One way to avoid accidents is to go to the bathroom at set times, whether you feel the urge or not. For example, try going every hour or every two hours. It may take a little trial and error to find the schedule that works best for you. Then you can set a reminder on your computer or phone to keep you on track.

Learn to "Freeze and Squeeze"

If you ever feel like you won't make it to the bathroom in time, try these steps:

  • Stand still or sit down if possible.
  • Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles three to five times.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Focus your mind on breathing and preventing a leak.

Once the urge has passed, continue walking to the bathroom.

Train Your Bladder

Over the course of three to 12 weeks, you may be able to train an overactive bladder to hold urine longer. When you feel the urge, wait a minute or two before heading to the bathroom. Use deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to extend the amount of time you can "hold it" until you are urinating every three to four hours.

Skip the Coffee

Caffeine may help you stay alert during a long meeting, but in some people, coffee can irritate the bladder, which intensifies nature's call. This may be true even of decaffeinated coffee. For some people, carbonated drinks, with or without caffeine, may have the same effect.

Avoid the Water Cooler

While it's important to drink enough water, let your thirst be your guide. You may not actually need eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. When you do get a drink, sip it slowly rather than gulping it down. If your mouth feels dry during the day, try sugar-free gum or candy to cut down on the amount you drink.

Practice Kegels

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles may improve some types of urinary leakage. To do Kegel exercises, lie down and squeeze the muscles you would use if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold for three seconds, then relax. Work up to three sets of 10. Eventually, you can practice Kegels while sitting at your desk -- your co-workers will never know.

Ask Your Doctor About Medication

If incontinence related to overactive bladder interferes with your ability to do your job or other daily activities, talk to your doctor about medication. Doctors believe that these prescription drugs work by relaxing the bladder muscles and preventing muscle spasms of the bladder.

Consider a Pessary

If your bladder tends to leak mainly when you're exercising, laughing, or coughing, you may have stress incontinence. These leaks may be reduced by wearing a ring called a pessary inside the vagina. A doctor fits the pessary, which helps support the bladder. A pessary may be particularly helpful if your job involves a lot of physical activity.

Purchase High-Quality Pads

Consider wearing absorbent pads or undergarments designed specifically for incontinence. A variety of styles are available, so you may want to experiment to see which is most comfortable. These pads may be disposable or reusable.

Plan Ahead for Business Travel

If you'll be attending a conference, look up the conference center online ahead of time. You may be able to find a map of the facility. Try to make a mental note of where the restrooms are. Book your flights yourself so you can request an aisle seat near the lavatory. Pack your medication, extra pads, and a change of clothes in your carry-on.

Understanding Urinary Incontinence

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 17, 2012

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Quick Facts

What About Your Clothes?

If you worry about accidents, keep a change of clothes with you. Also include a waterproof storage bag for any wet clothes. To get rid of any odor, use one part vinegar to two parts water, baking soda, or commercial detergents.

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