If you’re worried about a leaky bladder, either because you’ve got one or you know someone who does, don’t panic. It’s a common problem, and it’s one with solutions. You can take plenty of steps to prevent it from happening in the first place—and to prevent it from controlling your life if it does.
As with all things medical, you should speak with your doctor to make sure you understand just what risks you face, and what preventative methods may offer you the most benefit. Remember, you’re not alone in worrying about leaks. It’s a problem that can be embarrassing, but you shouldn’t let it isolate you.
Consider these five tips to help prevent leaks:
1. Understand and Manage Leaks
While there are plenty of things you can do in order to prevent a leaky bladder and address it if and when you start experiencing urinary incontinence, it also pays to find some ways to cope with leaks. After all, many of the tips in this post can take some time to prove effective, so it can help to know what to do in the meantime. The best strategy for you will depend on the cause of the leaks you’re experiencing.
Urge incontinence occurs when your nervous system and bladder don’t play nice with each another. You might experience an overactive bladder—an overly frequent need to urinate—or your bladder could simply empty without warning.
If you suffer from stress incontinence, you should avoid activities that increase the pressure in your abdomen which can cause urine to leak through the ring of muscle in your bladder that’s meant to keep it in. Sneezing, coughing, jumping, and heavy lifting can cause leaks.
While lifting heavy things might be avoidable, coughing and sneezing aren’t. That’s why figuring out how to manage leaks is important. Incontinence underwear is one thing worth trying. While the words may conjure up adult diapers, fashion-forward brands like Knix are creating incontinence underwear that’s indistinguishable from a normal pair of panties you might wear.
Other strategies include taking care when you drink water. For instance, if you have trouble with leaks at night, you might consider stopping your consumption a few hours before bed.
2. Do Pelvic Floor Exercises
While it may take as much as three months to see results, pelvic floor exercises can help you to reduce leaks. (1)
Kegel exercises consist of a clench and a release aimed at increasing the strength of your pelvic floor. The part of your body is a series of tissues and muscles that forms a sort of sling at the base of your pelvis. That sling holds the organs there in place. If those muscles weaken, you can lose control of your bladder or your bowels.
For women, aging, weight gain, childbirth, and pregnancy can all weaken the pelvic floor. Men may experience similar weakening as they age, especially it they’ve had prostate surgery. Both men and women can benefit from trying out Kegel exercises.
So how do you do them? First, you need to find the right muscles. One way is to try to stop urinating mid-flow. The muscles used for this are your pelvic floor muscles. As you get used to relaxing and contracting them, you can work on strengthening them.
To perform Kegel exercises, tense the muscles you’ve identified in your pelvic floor and count to three. Then relax for the same three counts. Repeat this ten times. Over time, you should work up to holding for ten seconds. The aim is to eventually do three sets of ten reps every day.
3. Find a Workout That’ll Help (and Won’t Hurt)
Along with doing Kegel exercises and avoiding any kind of heavy lifting that can become a problem over time, there are other exercises you can incorporate into your workout routines that’ll help. Here are a few worth trying and how to do them:
- Squats: Working the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, squats have some of the biggest payoff when it comes to strength training. You can use your bodyweight or add a barbell. (Make sure you’ve got your technique down first!)
- Bridge: This exercise works your glutes and activates your pelvic floor as well. It also works well without any weight added, which makes it easier to mix in when you’re working out at home. It’s a simple move, plus there are plenty of variations you can add if you’re looking to add new surprises to your workouts.
- Split tabletop: Working your abs, hips, and, of course, pelvic floor, this exercise is a foundational move in many Pilates workouts. Adding the split activates your hips and pelvic floor. It’s also another exercise that doesn’t need any weights.
- Bird dog: This is an exercise that works your abs and back, as well as your glutes and your hips. It’s a full body movement that engages a lot of muscles, your pelvic floor included, all at once.
If you’re looking for ways to include these moves in workouts that you’re already doing, consider mixing them into full-body workouts since each one targets multiple muscle groups. Not only will these workouts help you strengthen your pelvic floor, but these exercises will help strengthen your body as you age as well. They’re also relatively simple, so focus on getting your technique right before upping the reps or intensity.
4. Aim to Improve Your Bladder Health
Along with strengthening your pelvic floor, you can also work on your bladder’s health when you’re trying to manage or prevent leakages. Here are some things you might want to try:
- Drinking enough water: This means six to eight glasses of fluids every day—at least half of which should be water. You should double-check this amount with your doctor, since certain conditions like kidney failure may impact how much fluid is healthy for you to take in. (3)
- Cut back on caffeine and alcohol: Just as you’re upping your water intake, you should cut out the drinking that isn’t helpful—namely, alcohol and caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea. (3)
- Quit smoking: Smoking can increase a woman’s risk of stress incontinence, so don’t start if you aren’t a smoker and work on quitting if you are. (1)
- Watch what you eat and drink: Avoiding spicy and acidic foods, both of which can irritate the bladder and cause your symptoms to get worse.
- Urinate when you need to: Make sure you urinate every three to four hours and that you completely empty your bladder when you do. (3)
- Urinate after sex: Both men and women should urinate after sex. This will help flush any bacteria from your urethra, which could otherwise cause a urinary tract or bladder infection. (3)
- Deal with your constipation: If you suffer from constipation, you should work to address that too. Straining to defecate can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, which will make leakage worse. You shouldn’t delay when you feel the urge to empty your bowels, and you should consider fiber supplements or a change in diet if the problem persists. (3)
In general, working on your bladder health won’t hurt your incontinence, and it may well help. As always, speaking with a health care provider can help ensure you’re checking all the boxes.
5. Medical Interventions
If it comes down to it, you should know that there are interventions that a doctor may recommend to address your urinary incontinence, which includes these:
- Medicine: Different medications can help your bladder hold more liquid and can reduce urgency as well as helping you empty your bladder more easily.
- Botox injection: Injecting Botox into the lining of your bladder blocks the release of a chemical which prompts contractions in the muscle.
- Injection of a thick substance: This procedure puts a thick substance around your urethra, enabling it to hold back urine more easily.
- Surgery: Inserting a mesh strip that’ll press against the urethra can help prevent leakage. (1)
On the whole, remember that it always pays to get advice from a medical professional when you’re experiencing a health problem. Hopkins Medicine reports that around half of the people who suffer from urinary incontinence don’t get medical help. Don’t make that mistake—it’s a common problem and certainly nothing about which you need to be embarrassed. (1)
If you’re hoping to prevent leaks from happening altogether, keep an eye on your bladder health and do what you can to improve it. You could focus on losing weight, quit smoking, or avoid caffeine. If you’ve already experienced incontinence and you’re looking to prevent it from recurring, make sure you understand your condition so you can manage your symptoms. Consider exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, wearing incontinence underwear, or strategizing about when you drink water.
There are plenty of tips to try, whether you’re experiencing urinary incontinence or you’re just worried about it happening in the future. As always, it pays to talk to your doctor and follow the advice you’re given. No matter what, make sure to live your life and don’t let fears of a leaky bladder keep you from what you want to accomplish.
- “Solutions for a Leaky Bladder”, Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/urinary-incontinence/solutions-for-a-leaky-bladder
- “5 Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women”, Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/pelvic-floor-exercises
- “13 Tips to Keep Your Bladder Healthy”, Source: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/13-tips-keep-your-bladder-healthy