“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
You can strengthen your muscles to improve symptoms.
“They’re called quick flicks,” Wein says. “Relax and contract the muscles very quickly. Many times, that will abort the sensation of urgency.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”