Healthy lifestyle practices can ease symptoms of stress incontinence. These include:
- Shed extra weight. If you're overweight — your body mass index (BMI) is 25 or higher — losing excess pounds can help reduce the overall pressure on your bladder and pelvic floor muscles. Moderate weight loss may markedly improve stress incontinence. Talk to your doctor for guidance on weight loss.
- Add fiber to your diet. If chronic constipation contributes to your urinary incontinence, keeping bowel movements soft and regular reduces the strain placed on your pelvic floor muscles. Try eating high-fiber foods — whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables — to relieve and prevent constipation.
- Avoid foods and beverages that can irritate your bladder. If drinking coffee or tea (regular or decaf) seems to make you urinate and leak more frequently, try eliminating that drink, especially on days you really don't want to be bothered by leakage.
- Don't smoke. Smoking can lead to a severe chronic cough, which can aggravate the symptoms of stress incontinence. Smoking is also a factor in many cases of bladder cancer.
Treatments for stress incontinence can often substantially reduce, and possibly eliminate, urine leakage. Some people will still have urine leakage every now and then. Being prepared may help you cope.
Going out and about
Maintaining your connection with family, friends and co-workers can prevent feelings of isolation and depression that can accompany incontinence. Being prepared may help you feel more comfortable when you're out and about:
- Stock up on supplies. Take along sufficient incontinence pads or protective undergarments and possibly a change of clothes. Incontinence products are discreet and can be stowed in a roomy purse or a small backpack. Extra supplies and spare clothes can be kept in the trunk of your car or a backpack for use when needed.
- Scout out your destination. Familiarize yourself with the restrooms available at your destination. Choose seating that allows easy access to restrooms.
- Take good care of your skin. Prolonged contact with wet clothing can cause skin irritation or sores. Keep your skin dry by changing your garments when they're wet and applying a barrier cream if your skin is frequently wet.
Sexuality and incontinence
Leaking urine during sexual intercourse can be upsetting, but it doesn't necessarily have to get in the way of intimacy and enjoyment:
- Talk with your partner. As difficult as this may be initially, be upfront with your partner about your symptoms. A partner's understanding and willingness to accommodate your needs can make your symptoms much easier to handle.
- Empty your bladder beforehand. To reduce your chances of leakage, avoid drinking fluids for an hour or so before sex and empty your bladder before intimacy starts.
- Try a different position. Altering positions may make leakage less likely for you. For women, being on top generally gives better control of the pelvic muscles.
- Do your Kegels. Pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegel exercises) strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce urine leakage.
- Be prepared. Having towels handy or using disposable pads on your bed may ease your worry and contain any leakage.
Being incontinent is never the norm as you age. Treatments are usually available to significantly reduce the effects of incontinence on your life. Stress incontinence can often be cured.
Find a doctor who's willing to work with you to determine the best way to treat your incontinence. Choosing the right treatments for you should be a partnership between you and your doctor. If your doctor doesn't want to discuss the pros and cons of the many treatment options with you, find another who will.
You might consider joining a support group. Organizations such as the National Association for Continence can provide you with resources and information about people who experience stress incontinence. Support groups offer an opportunity to voice concerns and often provide motivation to maintain self-care strategies.