8 Steps for Women To Avoid Urinary Incontinence

Are you one of the 25-45 percent of American women who had involuntary leaking of urine in the past year? Or who has to go to the bathroom too often? If so, we've got good news: there are eight steps listed below that you can take to make it better (or avoid it entirely).

Urinary incontinence and wearing pads or diapers because of it is not “normal,” even for women who've had children or are older. Many of the solutions are fairly simple things anyone can do. Only about five percent of women with urinary incontinence require surgery.

The Usual Culprits

The most common types of urinary incontinence:

  • Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) happens when you exert effort through things like sneezing, laughing, or coughing. It’s caused by weak muscles that hold the bladder in place, in the bladder itself, or in the urethral sphincter that stops or releases urine.  Or it can be from damage to the nerves controlling the bladder. The damage could be genetic or from pregnancy and vaginal delivery, obesity, repetitive heavy lifting, and even constipation. It could also be from disease or disease treatment.
  • Overactive bladder is “the sudden, strong urge to urinate that you can’t control.” With or without leakage, it makes you need to urinate often and more than once during the night

Steps Every Woman Can Take

Whether you currently suffer from urinary incontinence or not, these lifestyle habits can help improve or prevent it from happening:

When to Consider Getting Help

If any of the statements below are true for you, talk to your doctor or ob-gyn to see what you can do and whether you should see a urologist.

Do you:

  • Change or restrict social activities for fear of wetting your pants
  • Need to go urgently, as soon as you feel the need
  • Urinate eight times during the day or more than two times at night
  • Leak urine while trying to get to the bathroom
  • Leak urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh

Exploring Treatment Options

For stress urinary incontinence that doesn't respond to the eight steps above, common treatment options include:

  • Using a pessary, a  soft plastic device placed in the vagina to support the urethra
  • Surgery involving slings to support the urethra and keep it closed

For an over-active bladder, treatment options include:

  • Medications to block the nerve signals related to bladder muscle contractions (including Botox injected into the bladder)
  • Nerve stimulation with an electrical pulse to the nerves that control bladder and pelvic floor function

The Takeaway

If you are leaking urine or going to the bathroom too often, talk to your doctor.  Nearly 90 percent of women who seek help with urinary incontinence find improvement – often through lifestyle changes. A wide range of treatments are available before considering surgery.

More information is available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in this fact sheet for women on urinary incontinence.

Meet the Author

Tracy L. Capes, MD is board-certified in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery / Urogynecology at The Center for Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Reconstruction at Aurora Women’s Pavilion in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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