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6 ways to cope with incontinence

A smiling older woman talks to a doctor.

Feb. 23, 2023—If you frequently find yourself searching for the nearest restroom—and worrying you might not make it in time—or if you experience leaks when you laugh, cough or sneeze, you're not alone. These are signs of urinary incontinence, and it's a common concern, especially among women. The good news: There's a lot you can do to take control of your condition.

Get back in control

Incontinence is common, and it can affect anyone, although it's more common among women than men. That's because pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can affect the muscles that support the bladder, urethra and pelvic floor.

But just because incontinence is common doesn't mean it's normal—and you don't have to simply live with it. There are ways to help reduce bladder leaks. Start with these tips from the experts at the National Association for Continence and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:

  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can cause your bladder to fill quickly, and they can irritate your bladder.
  • Do Kegels or other pelvic floor exercises. These strengthen the muscles that help control the release of urine from your bladder. Ask your doctor if these are right for you. If they are, learning from a physical therapist how to do them correctly can help.
  • Get plenty of low-impact exercise. Staying fit strengthens your muscles and helps you lose weight, which can also affect incontinence. And low-impact exercise, such as walking, doesn't put extra pressure on your bladder.
  • Keep a bladder diary. Track what you eat and drink, when you urinate, and if you have a leak. Your doctor can use that information to help identify incontinence triggers and recommend treatments.
  • Quit smoking. In addition to harming your overall health, smoking can cause coughing, which can trigger bladder leaks.
  • Talk to your doctor. There is a range of effective treatments for incontinence. Your doctor can help you find the approach that’s right for you.

Start the conversation

Speaking up about bladder issues can be stressful for some people, but it’s worth it. And it’s the first step to finding a treatment that works for you. Prepare for your appointment with this helpful guide.


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