Urinary incontinence is common in women, especially as you get older, but that doesn’t mean it’s not embarrassing. It can affect your day to day life and even impact your activities and social interactions. Urinary incontinence can happen for a number of reasons, but the good news is, there are ways to prevent and treat it. If you feel like it’s taking over your life, here are 6 helpful urinary incontinence tips for women.
What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine. It’s also known as an overactive bladder, and although it can happen to anyone, it’s more common in older women, as well as women who are pregnant or have just given birth. There are four different types of urinary incontinence.:
Stress incontinence: urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or lifting something heavy.
Urge incontinence: there’s a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including during the night.
Overflow Incontinence: a frequent or constant dribbling of urine because your bladder is always full and doesn’t empty completely.
Functional incontinence: a physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the bathroom in time, for example, you have arthritis and can’t get to the toilet quick enough or can’t unbutton your pants fast enough.
It’s also possible to experience a combination of these, called mixed incontinence. This most often refers to a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence in Women?
Urinary incontinence is caused by problems with the muscles and nerves that help the bladder hold or pass urine. During urination, muscles in the bladder tighten to move urine into the urethra, while at the same time the muscles around the urethra relax and let the urine pass through the body.
When the muscles in and around the bladder don’t work the way they should, urine can leak resulting in urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence can happen for a number of different reasons, some of which are unique to women, such as pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, which can cause problems with the muscles and nerves in these areas.
It can also be due to urinary tract infections, vaginal infection or irritation or constipation. If incontinence is an ongoing thing, it could be due to weak bladder or pelvic floor muscles, overactive bladder muscles, diseases such as arthritis, diabetes or MS, pelvic organ prolapse, or obesity.
When to See Your Doctor
Urinary incontinence should not be causing you to restrict your activities and social interactions. If urinary incontinence is frequent or affects your quality of life, it’s important to see your doctor. It could increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to the bathroom and it can indicate a more serious underlying condition. If it’s negatively affecting your quality of life, be sure to seek medical attention for your urinary incontinence.
How to Prevent Urinary Incontinence
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Practice pelvic floor exercises
- Avoid bladder irritants such as caffeine and alcohol
- Eat more fibre to prevent constipation
- Quit smoking if you’re a smoker
6 Urinary Incontinence Tips for Women
1. See a Pelvic Floor Therapist
Pelvic floor therapy is becoming more and more common and is definitely something worth looking into for urinary incontinence. Your therapist will work one on one with you to determine why you’re experiencing urinary incontinence and give you exercises to help. You’ll learn the skills you need to gain back bladder control by improving the strength and function of the muscles that support the bladder, urethra and other pelvic organs.
2. Manage Constipation
If you’re constipated, this could be contributing to urinary incompetence. Eat more high fibre foods such as lentils, broccoli, berries, avocados, whole grains, quinoa, oatmeal and beets. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are also a great source of fibre and can be added to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal. Also make sure to drink lots of water, as it can help soften stools and stimulate bowel movements. Regular physical activity is also key to relieving constipation.
3. Retrain Your Bladder
You can train your bladder by going to the bathroom at set times. If you find yourself going to the bathroom constantly throughout the day, help control the urge by retraining your bladder. Start by tracking how often you go to the bathroom each day, then slowly add 15 minutes between bathroom visits. By gradually increasing the amount of time between bathroom visits, your bladder learns to hold more urine before you have to go again.
4. Manage Your Weight
If you’re overweight, talk to your health care provider about strategies to lose weight. In people who are obese or overweight, losing weight can help to reduce urine leakage. Weight loss strategies will likely encompass eating a healthier diet, with a focus on whole foods, fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and legumes, and limiting refined sugars and carbs, and fried and processed foods. It will also entail increasing your physical activity, whether that’s through walking, cycling, pilates, cardio or strength training. Find an activity you enjoy and keep at it.
5. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine
Fluids such as alcohol, caffeine and sparkling water are known as bladder irritants as they’re more difficult for your bladder to process than others and can make you feel like you have to go pee more often. By limiting or eliminating these irritants, you’re likely to notice a reduction in urinary incontinence.
6. Try Yoga
Yoga has been found to be helpful with urinary incontinence symptoms. Incontinence is often associated with anxiety and stress, and yoga is a mindful, relaxing practice that can help with this. Regularly practicing yoga may also help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder. A quick Youtube search for ‘yoga for your pelvic floor’ pulls up lots of great options!
If you’ve been having trouble with urinary incontinence, try out these tips to gain back control of your bladder!
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