How You Can Manage The Reality of Bladder Incontinence

Many women will experience loss of bladder control (incontinence) over the course of their lives. In fact, women are twice as likely as men to experience it! Out of all the possible symptoms, bladder leakage can cause the most frustration and embarrassment. Women of all ages can benefit from learning about incontinence and how to help manage it. Together, we can disempower any stigma surrounding this common condition through preparation and open communication.

While there are a variety of conditions that can impact the bladder, the most common symptoms of incontinence include discomfort, sense of urgency and loss of bladder control. Factors that can increase the likelihood of bladder issues include aging, menopause, pregnancy and childbirth.

Urinary incontinence is divided into a few different types depending on how it presents. Here are the most common types of urinary incontinence.

1. Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when the bladder leaks due to pressure from strenuous or sudden activity, such as laughter, sneezing, coughing, standing suddenly, exercise and sexual activity. Pelvic floor muscles support both the bladder and the urethra, so conditions that can weaken them like pregnancy, childbirth or a chronic cough can be factors in developing stress incontinence. Although aging and menopause often contribute to developing stress incontinence, younger women can experience it, as well.

2. Urge incontinence

Urge incontinence, also known as “overactive bladder,” can present as feeling the need to urinate frequently or very suddenly. These symptoms are usually followed by losing control of the bladder. Unlike stress incontinence, urge incontinence may be caused by neurological factors and can even be triggered by the sound or sight of running water or pouring liquids.

Urge incontinence is a common experience for aging and menopausal women. It can also occur due to infections in the bladder. Urge incontinence is also part of the range of symptoms for more serious conditions, such as trauma to the nervous system, a stroke, neurological disorders and autoimmune diseases.

3. Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence refers to a frequent pattern of urinary leakage because the muscles around the bladder don’t squeeze it firmly enough to completely empty it during urination, causing an “overflow.” Overflow incontinence can also make it difficult to urinate freely.

Most often experienced by aging adults, overflow incontinence is actually more likely to affect men. Factors in the development of overflow incontinence can include an enlarged prostate, kidney stones and conditions affecting the nervous system.

4. Mixed incontinence

As its name suggests, mixed incontinence is when someone experiences more than one type of urinary incontinence at a time. Any form of urinary incontinence may appear alongside a separate condition affecting the bladder.


Natural ways to manage bladder issues

The wide range of causes and severity of bladder issues means that there isn’t one easy solution. Some people may be able to treat their bladder issues easily and move on. For others, it might acutely impact their routine and emotional wellbeing. It’s always best to discuss any new symptoms or experiences with a trusted medical practitioner to make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of your health.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your bladder health.

  • Pelvic floor training exercises: Also known as Kegel exercises, pelvic floor training is easy to add to your daily routine, since you can do a few reps discreetly just about anywhere! Your pelvic floor is a significant muscular support for your bladder, so strengthening it—especially if you are postpartum, menopausal or experiencing continuous bladder issues—is a great ongoing practice.
  • Healthy lifestyle choices: Simply eating a wholesome, veggie-packed diet and getting regular exercise won’t fix your bladder issues. However, prioritizing your health through your daily routines can improve your overall resilience. Important considerations include limiting caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine can have a diuretic effect, increasing the sense of needing to urinate. Extra body weight puts more pressure on your bladder, and smoking cigarettes—aside from their overall health risks—increases the likelihood of chronic coughing, which can cause stress leakage, as well. Eating lots of high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods and keeping your body fit and flexible will put you in the best position for improving the health of your bladder.
  • Controlling fluid intake: You may want to reduce the volume of fluids you consume, especially if you’re going to be out of the house or away from the bathroom for a while. You should never take this to the point of dehydration. However, if you experience bladder control issues, perhaps 10 minutes before bed isn’t the right time to drink a large cup of tea! Likewise, consider bringing a water bottle with you to sip on intermittently instead of drinking a large glass right before heading out the door.
  • Bladder training: Bladder training is something you can try at home to improve your urination habits. Train yourself by going to the bathroom at set times and slowly increasing the duration between your scheduled visits. You can also try “double urinating” by waiting just 10 minutes in between voiding. It might also help to delay urinating by a couple of minutes when you feel the urge. If you are developing a treatment plan with a medical professional, be sure to get their recommendations for bladder training. And remember—don’t push yourself to the point of discomfort or accidents.
  • Supplements for bladder control support: Another option for managing bladder issues is supplementation with traditional herbal remedies. Herbs such as corn silk and horsetail have long been used to help reduce leakage and support an overactive bladder. If you’re looking for a natural option to improve your bladder issues, it’s absolutely worth considering an herbal supplement specifically formulated to support women experiencing bladder concerns, including discomfort and leakage.

It’s perfectly normal to be frustrated about urinary incontinence. Just remember that plenty of women will develop bladder issues at some point in their lives. Although urinary incontinence affects millions of women, the good news is there are tons of natural remedies you can try at home to get your bladder health back on track.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in February 2021. It has been updated to include more relevant and comprehensive information.

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