Can urinary incontinence be prevented?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
For both urge incontinence and stress incontinence, you can strengthen pelvic muscles with Kegel exercises to retrain your bladder muscles how and when to contract properly. Also ask your doctor about medications to ease muscle contractions. You don't have to drip. You can get help!
There are several things you can do to help keep your bladder healthy and avoid or minimize symptoms of urinary incontinence:
  • If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Check any medications you're taking for side effects that may affect your urinary health.
  • Go to the bathroom when you need to: every 2-3 hours when you're awake is about right for a healthy adult.
  • Avoid caffeine, acidic foods, spicy foods, and carbonated drinks that may make symptoms worse.
  • Avoid bubble baths and soaps that might irritate the urethra.
  • Lose a few pounds if you are overweight. Dropping just 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight can significantly reduce symptoms.
  • Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises -- this goes for women and men.
  • Drink plenty of water, but avoid large amounts all at once. Sip slowly throughout the day.

    Jill Rabin
    OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
    The single best method to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence is to maintain a healthy weight. Eating well, getting enough fiber and staying hydrated also helps.

    Learning how to properly perform pelvic floor muscle exercise is also a very good idea. This will help keep your pelvic floor (the muscles that support the pelvic organs, including your bladder) as strong as possible. Don't wait until you're older or until menopause, start on a program of these now! Many are available. One commonly described way is to tighten the vaginal muscles and hold them in to a count of 5, then relax to a count of 10; do 5 of these contraction/relaxations which is a 'set'. Try doing 10 sets per day, then build to 20. If you have had a problem with leaking or prolapsed (dropped) bladder, by the end of 6 weeks you may notice an improvement.  If you need further assistance, ask your family physician, internist, gynecologist, urogynecologist or urologist to describe these as well.
    Kevin W. Windom, MD
    OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
    The most common cause of urinary incontinence is obstetrics trauma and there are many opinions that cesarean section delivery can decrease the chances of urinary incontinence.  This is very debatable and is something that should be discussed with your physician if you are considering an elective cesarean section.  Other ways of preventing urinary incontinence are staying healthy and fit and maintaining a normal weight.  Another cause of urinary incontinence is smoking. Smoking can cause deterioration of connective tissue as well as the chronic coughing can cause tearing of connective tissue holding the urethra in place.  Lastly, avoiding certain foods and drinks such as caffeine and carbonated drinks can decrease the chances of urinary incontinence.

    Unfortunately, you may not be able to prevent all cases of urinary incontinence. However, it may be possible to limit your occurrences or lower your risk. Staying at a healthy weight, exercising, eating fiber, and avoiding smoking can all help prevent urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises, which are exercises of the pelvic floor muscles, can help strengthen the muscles and reduce accidents. Lastly, if certain foods or drinks such as coffee or alcohol exacerbate your urinary incontinence, avoid them.

    Continue Learning about Urinary Incontinence

    Urinary Incontinence

    Urinary Incontinence

    Urinary incontinence (UI) is the accidental release of urine, which can affect both men and women. Symptoms of UI may differ from person to person and the treatment options range from medications to surgery. Learn more from our ex...

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.