Bladder control issues are more common than you would expect, and women within a fairly wide age range can struggle with weakened pelvic muscles and urinary incontinence. Poor bladder control can begin post-childbirth as well as during the pre- and postmenopausal years of a woman’s life.
Of course, we encourage women experiencing incontinence to contact UGCSF to discuss their symptoms and decide which course of treatment will be most effective. In the meantime, there are things women can do on their own to help strengthen the bladder.
Take stock of your beverage intake – Certain beverages can act as a diuretic, meaning they will increase the amount of urine you produce after consumption. These types of drinks include caffeine and alcohol most notably, but also soda, tea, and beverages with chocolate. If your diet includes these types of drinks, particularly if you consume more than one or two per day, consider removing them as a test to see if your bladder control issues improve. Additionally, artificial sweeteners, which are typically added to the previously noted beverages, can irritate your bladder, making incontinence issues worse.
Avoid acidic foods – Citrus foods and overly spicy dishes can irritate your bladder and increase your need for bathroom trips post-consumption. Doctors have also found that tomatoes, apples, and foods that contain corn syrup can irritate your bladder.
Begin Kegel exercises – UGCSF has provided patients with an easy, helpful guide to Kegel exercises, which you can find here. Kegel exercises can be done while lying down, sitting or standing – no one will be able to recognize that you are doing them. They are used to strengthen your pelvic floor to assist with bladder control concerns. Please discuss any questions about Kegel exercises with your provider. He or she can provide additional direction.
Consider bladder training – You should discuss bladder training with your healthcare provider prior to committing to a schedule. Bladder training refers to following a urination schedule: you log your attempts to gradually lengthen the amount of time between when you feel you need to use the bathroom and when you actually urinate.
Bladder control issues can seem embarrassing, but most women (and men!) will experience some form of urinary incontinence during their lifetime. Patients who avoid seeking care for bladder control problems can experience a lowered quality of life, with daily routines sacrificed to incontinence. We recommend seeking care as soon as possible. In the meantime, follow the above steps to help control symptoms.