How To Stop Bladder Leakage
If you experience any form of bladder leakage—whether it’s light and occasional, or more persistent; nocturnal or during the day—odds are you’d like to stop it.
As with any medical condition, urinary incontinence is not something there’s an easy or quick fix for, disappointing as that might be. However, that doesn’t mean there’s *nothing* you can do. Indeed, you will likely have quite a few options...
Let’s look closer!
Before You Can Stop Bladder Leakage, You Must Understand it…
There are 5 different kinds of female urinary incontinence and each one has its own cause and specific ways it manifests. Treatment options also vary, though they may also overlap.
Step 1 in deciding how to treat urinary incontinence will be understanding why it’s happening. In additional to the 5 types of incontinence outlined below, there can be reasons for temporary incontinence that include:
- Side effects of certain medications
- Reactions to spicy or sugary food or alcohol, carbonated or caffeinated beverages
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Working with your healthcare provider to determine the reason you’re experiencing loss of bladder control is the logical first step in embarking on a treatment plan.
The 5 Types of Urinary Incontinence
Type of Incontinence
How / When it Manifests
Some Possible Causes
Treatment May Include
Stress incontinence is urine loss during physical exertion, whether it be exercise or more physical reactions like coughing, sneezing, laughing etc.
An impossible-to-ignore urge to urinate, even if you just went or felt fine just minutes before.
A combination of stress and urge incontinence.
If the flow of urine “dribbles” or is unsteady, you may have overflow incontinence. The inability to completely empty your bladder can lead it to overflow and cause unexpected urine leaks.
This is when you experience urine loss, but the cause is not associated with any problems with the urinary system.
7 Ways to Stop Leaks
Although medical treatment may vary depending on the type of incontinence you’re experiencing, there are some common best practices no matter what the reason for your bladder control issues:
1. Reduce Your Risk Factors
Urinary incontinence affects a great number of women, at every age, life stage and with all kinds of medical history. A lot of the risk factors (e.g. past pregnancy and childbirth trauma, or surgical history) are not things you can impact.
However, some of the risk factors can be addressed with lifestyle changes. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Quitting smoking
If you plan on making changes to either of these things, know that there are no guarantees that incontinence will disappear as a result. However, your overall health will likely benefit if you can maintain these changes long term.
If you plan on making a major lifestyle change, such as weight loss or giving up cigarettes, we recommend chatting with your doctor about realistic goals and expectations and making sure your approach is healthy.
2. Adjust Your Diet and Beverage Intake
Regardless of weight, you can also adjust what you eat and when you eat it. The following foods and beverages can irritate the bladder, causing involuntary urine leakage. If you notice patterns in your food and drink consumption that correspond with leaks, avoiding those foods will help avoid leaks.
Foods to avoid include:
- Sweeteners, including corn syrup, honey and artificial sweeteners
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods, like citrus fruits and tomatoes
Beverages to avoid include:
- Carbonated beverages
If you’re not ready to abstain completely from these ingredients, be more mindful when and where you consume them. Drinking carbonated beverages closer to bedtime might be something you avoid, since it could result in bedwetting (also known as nocturnal enuresis) or frequent waking up to use the bathroom (also known as nocturia).
3. Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles with Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Kegel or pelvic floor exercises can be done any time, either sitting or lying down.You can even do them when you are eating, sitting at your desk, or when you are resting.
If you’re unsure how to do Kegel exercises, your doctor, physical therapist or physiotherapist can help you. But basically it’s like pretending you have to urinate and then holding it. You relax and tighten the muscles that control urine flow.
One way to learn the muscles you should activate is to pay attention when you pee:
- Start to pee and then stop.
- You should feel the muscles in your vagina (for women), bladder, and anus get tight and move up. These are the pelvic floor muscles.
- If you feel them tighten, you have done the pelvic floor muscle training right. Your thighs, buttock muscles, and abdomen should remain relaxed.
4. Take Preventative Measures Against Urinary Tract Infections
Incontinence is one symptom of urinary tract infection (UTI). Another symptom is a stinging or burning sensation when you pee and a decreased or irregular flow of urine. If you experience this, you should visit your doctor. UTIs are treated with antibiotics for 3 to 7 days.
Ways to prevent UTIs include:
- Drink plenty of water
- Urinate before and after having sex
- Wipe from front to back after you pee
- Wear breathable, natural underwear and clothing, changing your underwear daily
5. Eat Plenty of Fibre to Avoid Constipation
Straining on the toilet can weaken (or further weaken) your pelvic floor muscles. So it’s best to make sure your diet is rich in fibre to avoid constipation. Exercise (even the gentlest of walks done regularly) can also help prevent constipation.
If you find yourself straining to empty your bowels, it may also be the way you’re sitting or the muscles you’re using. Speciality physiotherapists can help with this.
6. Try Bladder Training and/or Double Voiding
Bladder training involves taking bathroom breaks at regularly timed intervals. By ensuring your bladder is emptied frequently, you minimize the chances of leakages. Over time, the duration of time between breaks can be increased.
You can also try double voiding: Before bedtime, go to the bathroom and then wait 10 minutes (perhaps brush your teeth etc. in the interim) and then pee again. Using the bathroom several times before bed will help ensure your bladder is empty.
7. Talk to Your Doctor
While all of the above steps are something you can embark on on your own, we highly recommend you discuss your experience of urinary incontinence with your doctor. Depending on your life stage, the cause of your incontinence and the type of incontinence you have, they may explore other treatment options, including:
- Vaginal pessary or urinary insert
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Surgical options for urinary incontinence may include:
- Sling procedure
- Injectable bulking agents
- Retropubic colposuspension
When you do make the time to talk to your doctor, it helps to be prepared. Write down the questions you want to ask and anticipate the questions they might ask you! These are some of the questions your doctor may ask about your experiences of urinary incontinence:
- How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional, have they worsened over time?
- How often do you need to urinate?
- When (time of day or night) do you leak urine?
- Is it difficult for you to empty your bladder?
- Have you noticed any blood in your urine?
- General lifestyle questions: Smoking, diet, alcohol and caffeine consumption etc.
And here are some questions you might ask your doctor:
- What type of incontinence do I have?
- What is causing my urinary incontinence
- What tests should I expect?
- Should I make lifestyle changes, like:
- Bladder diary
- Kegel exercises
- Timed bathroom breaks
- Diet changes, etc.
- What treatment(s) do you suggest for me and why?
- Without treatment, what will happen?
- What are the side effects or risks associated with this treatment plan?
Bonus Tip: Try Leakproof Underwear
No matter what the changes or treatments you explore, they will likely take a while to show any effect. So, while you wait, you can also explore products to help you stay active and social. Leakproof underwear comes with different absorbency levels.
Super absorbent Knix Leakproof Underwear can hold up to 8 tsp of liquid (whether that’s sweat, blood or urine). Products like these can be a game changer for those experiencing female urinary incontinence, allowing them to remain active and social while exploring treatment options.
Incontinence is not an easy thing to experience, but there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can make it easier to live with incontinence.