How to manage bladder problems

Urine leakage (bladder incontinence) is more common in older women, but it’s not necessarily a natural part of ageing. You don’t have to ‘just live with it’. You can take action to help regain your bladder control.

If incontinence interferes with your daily life, it is worthwhile seeking professional help. A continence professional will assess your personal situation and create an appropriate continence management plan for you, which may include:

  • drinking enough fluid every day (6–8 glasses)
  • eating plenty of fibre-rich foods to prevent constipation (too much straining can damage the pelvic floor muscles)
  • pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises
  • bladder training program
  • medicines 
  • incontinence aids, such as pads, catheters or condom drainage.

Besides obtaining professional help, you can also train your bladder and pelvic floor muscle for better bladder control. This is known as bladder training, where you:

Identify your pattern

Keep a diary for a few days, in which you note each time that you urinate. This will help you to understand how often you urinate, as well as the interval between each time you go.

Extend your intervals

Use your bladder diary to calculate the amount of time from one urination to the next. Then see if you can extend the interval by 15 minutes. For example, if your average interval is one hour, then work towards extending it to an hour and 15 minutes.

Stick to your interval

Do your best to stick to your new interval. Urinate immediately after you wake up in the morning.If an urge to go arises afterwards, but it’s not your ‘scheduled’ time to go, try to wait it out (see next point). If you feel you’re going to have an accident, go to the toilet, but then return to your interval timings.

Practice relaxing

If you feel a sudden need to urinate before your scheduled time, try to stand still or sit down. Then, take deep breaths and contract your pelvic muscles, imagining the urge going away. Once you feel relaxed, slowly make your way to the bathroom if you still feel the need to go. Over time, this practice can help reduce feelings of urgency.

Perform Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. To do them, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you’re trying to stop your stream of urine. Your doctor may recommend that you do a set of these exercises three or four times a day. This will help to increase your intervals and reduce feelings of urgency.

Increase your intervals

Gradually lengthen the interval time to two to four hours. Lengthen in increments of 15 minutes each week until you reach the desired goal. Increasing your time limit slowly improves your chances of success.

Read more at Continence Foundation of Australia and Mayo Clinic.

Written by leshka

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