Better Me

How to Manage Incontinence, So You Can Worry Less

Incontinence. No one likes to talk about it and some may go to great lengths to hide that they deal with it on a day-to-day basis. This is a condition that almost 1 in 2 women will experience at some time in her life – and it is totally normal. Whether it be short-term or chronic, there are solutions. Lydia Hostetler, DO, a gynecologist and obstetrician with Banner Health Clinic in Colorado, offers further information on incontinence and suggestions to make it less of an interruption in your daily life.

Types of Incontinence

Incontinence is just another word for a simple leakage of urine. There are a couple different types of incontinence, stress and urgency, and it is helpful to know which you might be experiencing so you can determine how to treat it.

Stress incontinence is leakage caused by coughing, sneezing or similar actions. It comes from the pelvic floor muscles being too weak.

Urgency incontinence is that “got to go” feeling.  Sometimes the urge can feel so strong that it is possible to leak urine even before you can get to the bathroom. This is caused when the bladder spasms, regardless of whether it is full or not.

Keep in mind that incontinence is extremely common in the first 6 months after having a baby and may go away spontaneously as the pelvic floor heals. If you were recently pregnant but these symptoms don’t seem to be getting better, you should discuss this with your doctor.

How to help with stress incontinence

The easiest way to help stress incontinence is by practicing Kegel exercises. These exercises are easy to do and can be done in the comfort of your own home.

According to the National Association for Continence, the first step is to locate the muscles. Think of the muscles you would use to stop the flow mid-urination. Those are your pelvic floor muscles. Next, all you need to do is hold those muscles for 5 seconds and then let go for 5 more. Repeat this about 10 times, 3 times each day.

If these exercises don’t help, your primary care physician can recommend a specialized therapist who can help strengthen those pelvic muscles. Another option your doctor may recommend is a pessary—a small rubber dish inserted in the vagina to prevent leakage—or surgery.

How to help with urgency incontinence

If you suffer from urgency incontinence, Dr. Hostetler recommends avoiding the following to reduce bladder spasms:

  • Coffee
  • Dark sodas
  • Acidic foods
  • Nicotine

Ask about your doctor if medication could help – some women have benefited from Botox injections in the bladder to reduce spasms. It is important to know, however, that there are also some medications that can worsen incontinence. If you think this might be happening to you, ask your doctor to if there are any possible changes in medications that could help.

You should also speak with your doctor if you have a neurological issue or diabetes, as the urine leakage can be a sign of not completely emptying the bladder, which can lead to urinary tract infections. While leakage of urine is not a life-threatening condition, you should always be checked for a urinary tract infection to ensure your optimal health.

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