The Women's Health Resource Center
More than 13 million men and women in the U.S. suffer from urinary incontinence. Twice as many of these sufferers are women than men. Incontinence can cause inconvenience, emotional distress and depression. Know that incontinence has specific causes, many of them easily treatable.
Urinary incontinence can be caused by temporary physical conditions, such as a urinary tract infection, inflammation, medication side-effect or weakness of pelvic muscles which control the bladder. It can happen to anyone at any age and is not a natural consequence of aging.
To treat incontinence, the cause must be discovered. Tests look for signs of bladder infections, examination of the bladder and lower urinary tract, pelvic muscle function and urine loss during physical stress.
Urinary habits are also important to determine diagnosis and treatment and can indicate if a person has one or a combination of different types of incontinence. People with urge incontinence lose urine as soon as they feel the need to urinate. A person with stress incontinence may leak urine when they sneeze, laugh or lift a heavy object. People with overflow incontinence feel that they never completely empty their bladder.
Depending on the cause, there are three ways that incontinence may be treated. Behavioral techniques include pelvic muscle exercises called kegel exercises, or medication and surgery.
For more information or classes about urinary incontinence, contact the Women's Health Resource Center at 415-600-0500, the Community Health Resource Center at 415-923-3155 or the Institute for Health and Healing at 415-600-3660.
One of our programs to help women with continence concern is our Comprehensive Pelvic Medicine and Contienece Center.
What you can do…
- Don't feel embarrassed by your condition, discuss your concerns with your health care provider.
- Learn about kegel exercises from a health care professional.
- Urinate at least every couple of hours, even if you do not feel the urge.
- Avoid alcohol and beverages with caffeine.
Kegel exercises are pelvic floor muscle exercises designed to improve bladder control and incontinence. These muscles contract and relax under your command to control the opening and closing of your bladder. When your pelvic muscles are weak urine leakage may occur. Through regular kegel exercise you can build up pelvic floor muscle strength and, in many cases, regain bladder control.
Begin by locating the muscles to be exercised. As you begin to urinate try, to stop or slow the urine without tensing the muscles of your legs, buttocks or abdomen. It is very important not to use these other muscles as only the pelvic floor muscles control the bladder. When you are able to slow or stop the stream of urine, you have located the correct muscles. Feel the sensation of the muscles pulling inward and upward.
Performing kegel exercises:
- Kegel exercises should be done three or four times a day.
- Begin by squeezing your pelvic floor muscles to the slow count of four. Then relax these muscles completely to the slow count of four. This four-second contraction and four-second relaxation make one set.
- Complete 10 sets during each of your daily exercise sessions.
- In a few weeks you should be able to increase your muscle contraction time and number of daily sets. Your goal should be to hold each contraction for 10 seconds and to relax for 10 seconds, 25 to 30 times per set, four times a day.
- In order to improve or maintain bladder control, kegel exercises must be done on a regular basis for the rest of your life.
- It is helpful to perform kegel exercises before coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting heavy objects.