Urinary Incontinence

Bladder Training and Lifestyle Changes

Today, there are more treatments for urinary incontinence than ever be­fore. The choice of treatment depends on the type of bladder control problem you have, how serious it is, and what best fits your lifestyle. As a general rule, the simplest and safest treatments should be tried first.

(Watch the video to learn more about keeping your bladder healthy. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

Bladder Control Training

Bladder control training and small changes in your day-to-day life may help you get better control of your bladder. Your doctor may suggest you try the following.

  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises work the muscles that you use to hold urine in the bladder. Making these muscles stronger helps you hold urine in your bladder longer.

    For people who have trouble doing pelvic floor muscle exercises, biofeedback may help. Biofeedback uses sensors to take information about something going on in your body and share it with you in a way you can see, hear, or understand. For example, biofeedback can tell you when you flex your pelvic floor muscles. Since you cannot see your pelvic floor muscles, many people find that biofeedback helps them learn how to do pelvic floor muscle exercises.
  • Training your bladder to urinate on a set schedule may help you control your bladder. Keeping your bladder on a schedule is called timed voiding. For example, you may plan to urinate every hour. After some time, you can slowly extend the time between bathroom trips. When timed voiding is combined with biofeedback and pelvic floor muscle exercises, you may find it easier to control your bladder.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Drinking the right amount of fluids will make sure your body has enough water without over-filling your bladder. Some people who leak urine drink too little fluid because they fear having an accident. It is important to drink when you are thirsty. But make sure you are not drinking too much fluid. Too much fluid will cause you to make a large amount of urine. Talk to your health care provider about the right amount of fluid for you.
  • Choosing water instead of other drinks may make your bladder more comfortable. Many drinks -- such as carbonated drinks and drinks with artificial sweeteners -- can bother your bladder and make you more likely to leak urine.
  • Eating and drinking less caffeine may help you control your bladder. Try cutting down on caffeinated foods and drinks—such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and most sodas. For example, choose the decaf version of your favorite drink.
  • Drinking less alcohol may help you leak less often. Alcohol tells your body to get rid of more fluid than you take in, so you end up with more urine in your bladder.
  • Limiting drinks before bedtime may keep you from waking up often to urinate at night. If you are bothered by waking up to urinate, drink most of your fluids during the day and drink less after dinner.
  • Keeping a healthy weight may help with urinary incontinence. Being more physically active and making healthy food choices can help you be at a healthy weight. Make a plan with your health care team to get to (or stay at) a healthy weight.

Coping with Leaking Urine

Even after treatment, some people still leak urine from time to time. There are products that can help you cope with leaking urine. These products may make leaking urine bother you a little less.

  • Pads. You can wear disposable pads in your underwear to absorb urine when it leaks and keep your clothes from getting wet.
  • Adult diapers. If you leak large amounts of urine, you can wear an adult diaper to keep your clothes dry. You can choose disposable adult diapers, which you wear once and throw away. Or you can choose washable adult diapers, which you can reuse after washing.
  • Protective underwear. Special kinds of underwear can help keep clothes from getting wet. Some kinds of underwear have a waterproof crotch with room for a pad or liner. Others use a waterproof fabric to keep your skin dry.
  • Furniture pads. Pads can be used to protect chairs and beds from leaking urine. Some pads should be used once and thrown away. Other cloth pads can be washed and reused.
  • Special skin cleaners and creams. Urine can bother the skin if it stays on the skin for a long time. Special skin cleaners and creams are available for people who leak urine. Skin cleaners and creams may help the skin around your urethra from becoming irritated. Creams can help keep urine away from your skin.
  • Deodorizing pills. Deodorizing pills may make your urine smell less strongly. This way, if you do leak, it may be less noticeable. Ask your health care provider about deodorizing pills.
  • Avoiding constipation can keep pressure off your bladder. Eating plenty of high fiber foods (like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits), drinking enough water, and being physically active can help prevent constipation.