When it comes to living with bladder leaks, there are multiple tactics and potential treatments to consider, plus plenty of opportunities to customize and combine different approaches. Let’s take a look at a range of options—from things you can do on your own to treatments requiring outside expertise—so you can make more informed decisions about what’s best for you.
These are simple lifestyle changes you can make, steps you can take and techniques you can try on your own that might improve bladder control or enhance response to medication prescribed by your doctor.
Even if it seems counterintuitive, it’s important to stay hydrated even with bladder leaks. But do it the smart way. To avoid having to pee more often or more urgently, Mayo Clinic recommends drinking smaller amounts throughout the day, such as 16 ounces at each meal and 8 ounces between meals. Also choose fluids without alcohol, caffeine or carbonation, which can irritate the bladder. Soup is a great source of hydration!
Speaking of soup, it’s also good to identify which foods you eat are more likely to irritate or trigger your bladder and which ones are more likely to soothe. Typically, foods to avoid include acidic citrus fruits, tomato-based products, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods and—sorry ladies!—chocolate. But everyone reacts differently. It’s probably worth experimenting with cutting back on different foods to see if your symptoms improve.
Your pelvic floor muscles help control urination and support the bladder during everyday activities such as walking, standing, lifting and sneezing. Bolstering these muscles can make a big difference. Try putting your pelvic muscles on a strength-building routine featuring, what else, Kegels! See our infographic for additional guidance.
Increasing physical activity can help with overall body strength while encouraging weight loss—two factors that have been shown to help prevent bladder leakage. Look for activities you enjoy that are designed to be low impact, so you can get physical and have fun while still managing those leaks.
Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to ask for professional help. But you might not be ready for medications or surgical options. These treatments offer a conservative approach to enlisting someone else’s expertise in controlling or even curing your incontinence.
This minimally invasive strategy is often among the first approaches for treating bladder leakage. Following the guidance of a trained therapist, the goal is to improve the voluntary control and relaxation of your pelvic muscles. A regimen of specialized exercises and stretches, combined with manual therapies performed by your specialist, can increase muscular strength, relax trigger points and even synchronize movement of your pelvic muscles with your breathing. It can be a powerful way to improve bladder function and control, and even cure bladder leakage!
It’s not uncommon to get used to urinating frequently or at the slightest urge. After a while, your bladder can start sending “full” signals to your brain even when it’s not. By adjusting your habits, you can set a schedule to pee independent of actual urges. First, observe and identify your particular “pee pattern.” Keep the info in a diary so your doctor can help you figure out the best amount of time between bathroom visits. Then, with the doctor’s guidance, gradually extend that time between trips. Try to stick to the schedule—it may take a bit of practice. Over time, your bladder can hold more, and you can increase the time and decrease urgency between trips to the bathroom.
More serious treatments for addressing bladder leakage, of course, require the guidance of your physician.
Two common surgical approaches to treating urinary incontinence are:
The sling procedure: A surgeon creates a sling (made of synthetic mesh or tissue taken from elsewhere in your body) under or near your urethra. This supports the urethra and helps keep it closed—especially when you cough or sneeze—so that you don’t leak urine.
Bladder neck suspension: This laparoscopic procedure helps reinforce the neck of the bladder (the point where bladder and urethra meet) by suturing it to ligaments near the pubic bone. This allows for better compression, which helps prevent leakage.
There are myriad drugs that can be prescribed to help treat bladder leakage. These can:
No matter what options look like the right fit for you and your bladder leakage, a conversation with your healthcare provider is always the smart place to start! And it’s the best way to find solutions that are uniquely yours.