At Work With Urinary Incontinence

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 02, 2017
3 min read

Carry on! Incontinence doesn't have to interrupt your work life. Simple steps make a difference.

Try to keep you bladder empty. If it's full, it is more likely to leak.

Drink no more than three or four glasses of liquids at work, and limit caffeine, which makes your body produce more urine.

"You can go a little thirsty during work and drink more at home," says Craig Comiter, MD, professor of urology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Empty your bladder often to avoid problems.

"Void frequently throughout the day -- every time you pass a bathroom if that's not inconvenient," says Alan J. Wein, MD, co-director of the Urologic Oncology Program at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

If possible, gradually add 15 minutes to the amount of time between bathroom visits. This will train you to hold urine for long meetings. But act on any feelings of urgency.

"People should be able to train their bladders so they can wait a minimum of 3 hours," says May M. Wakamatsu, MD, director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Flex and release your pelvic floor muscles to help prevent leaks. This exercise is called a Kegel.

"There's no limit to how frequently you can do them," Wein says. "You can do them in a car, a bus, at your desk."

Some people leak when they stand up. To prevent this, squeeze pelvic floor muscles as you stand. This exercise can also help you reduce a strong urge to pee. Quickly tense and relax the muscles several times.

"That urge should go away," Comiter says. "Then you can politely excuse yourself and go to the bathroom."

If you're concerned your co-workers might see wet spots on your clothing, wear dark colors that won't show the contrast between wet and dry fabric. This tactic should be a safety net, not a solution to your problem.

"Black or very dark brown work best," Wakamatsu says. "Some women wear nothing but dark bottoms just in case, but we do encourage women to come in and see if we can help them with their bladder control."

If you're a woman prone to leaks when you exert yourself, wear a tampon, which provides bladder support. You can use up to 2 tampons per day, 6 hours each (stick to these limits to avoid toxic shock syndrome). It can give you peace of mind during a busy day.

"If there's a particularly busy day with a lot of stair-climbing or a company-sponsored hike, this is a good on-demand treatment," Comiter says.

If you have an important meeting, an incontinence pad may be a good back-up plan.

"They do protect from embarrassing social situations of leakage," he says. "But a wet pad is a risk for UTIs, so pads must be changed regularly."

Some people worry that co-workers will smell urine, but incontinence pads often have built-in odor protection.

If lifestyle changes don't ease your urge to urinate, talk to your doctor. Prescription drugs, nerve stimulation, and even Botox for overactive bladder may cut back on your need to excuse yourself from meetings.

"They relieve the sensation of urgency, and they work reasonably well," Wein says.