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Tips for coping day to day with urinary incontinence

You don't have to just live with incontinence – simple changes like these 13 tips can help you take control.
By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Like it or not, urinary incontinence is a fact of life for many people. It can happen as we get older, and for women during pregnancy, or after birth or even as the result of a persistent cough.

Which type of urinary incontinence do you have?

Urinary incontinence (UI) is the involuntary loss of urine. It’s common in men and women of all ages. According to the Bladder and Bowel Foundation, 1 out of every 4 people in the UK experiences urinary incontinence. The two main types of urinary incontinence are:

  • Stress incontinence, which can cause leakage when you cough, sneeze, exercise, laugh or strain to lift something heavy.
  • Urge incontinence, which is an unexpected, sudden urge to urinate, one that's so strong it can be hard to reach the toilet in time.

No matter which type of urinary incontinence you have, simple behavioural tips can help you get through the day.

We spoke to Louise de Winter, chief executive of The Urology Foundation. Here are her tips on how to take matters into your own hands - and make living with urinary incontinence a lot easier. 

1. Do pelvic floor exercises

An important urinary incontinence treatment, pelvic floor exercises are especially effective for women with mild symptoms. Pelvic floor exercises are simple to do. Simply clench and unclench your pelvic floor muscles. Which muscles are those? Louise says they are the muscles that you contract when you try to stop weeing. Do 40 or 50 during the course of a day.

However, don't make a habit of stopping your urine when you wee, as it can actually weaken muscles. Do pelvic floor exercises anywhere and everywhere else, though - while online, when you clean your teeth, while waiting for a bus, or in the car. Start by squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for a slow count of five, then release for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times. As you develop strength over time, aim to hold the muscles for 10 seconds and release for 10.

2. Go regularly

Make sure you go to the loo regularly but don't overdo it. Louise De Winter says you shouldn't go to the toilet too frequently - maybe 4 or 5 times a day is about right.

3. Fill the void

Don't be in a hurry when you're on the toilet. Take your time. After you've finished urinating, relax a bit and then urinate again - this practice, called double voiding, helps really empty the bladder. Louise says it's important to go as there's no point storing up urine. It's fine to wait to see if you have an after dribble but don't force it.

4. Keep the path clear

Are you or a person you care for having accidents before making it to the toilet? It's time to clear your path of obstacles so you can get there faster. Help yourself once you're there by wearing easy-to-release clothes - think elastic waistbands and Velcro closures. Louise says if it's got to that stage there are ways of coping, take the aisle seat on a plane, go to the loo before a big presentation, if you are caring for someone make sure easy access clothing is worn.

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