Ways to Avoid Leaky Bladder

Ways to Avoid Leaky Bladder

Urinary leakage can be caused by a cough, a laugh, a sneeze…or, for no apparent reason at all.

“This is very embarrassing for patients, because they don’t know when it’s going to happen,” explains Catrina Crisp MD, a urogynecologist at Cincinnati Urogynecology Associates.

Urinary Leakage: The Most Common Types

“When most patients come in, their main complaint is leakage, and for them, there is no difference because it all results in the same problem, which is wetness,” Dr. Crisp explains.

However, there are two main types of incontinence, and it is important to determine which type you have, in order to find the most effective treatment option. They include:

  • Stress incontinence, which is leakage that occurs when you cough, laugh, sneeze or exercise. It is caused by weakness in the muscle that keeps urine inside the bladder, which can be caused by tissue or nerve damage during childbirth, obesity or chronic high-impact exercise.
  • Urge incontinence (commonly known as overactive bladder), which occurs when you suddenly feel a strong urgency to go to the bathroom and may not be able to make it in time.

Transient incontinence is another type that often occurs temporarily in people who do not typically experience incontinence. It can be triggered by eating or drinking foods that irritate the bladder, like caffeine or citrus. “Infections can also cause transient leakage,” she explains. “If it’s true transient leakage, once the infection has resolved – once you’ve stopped that bladder irritant – it should go away.”

Urinary Leakage and Pregnancy

Many women experience urinary incontinence during pregnancy because the weight of a growing fetus puts additional pressure on the bladder.

“Right after delivery is usually the worst that it will be, and it should improve up to six weeks after delivery,” Dr. Crisp says. “What doesn’t get better after that isn’t going to improve without some additional help – physical therapy, medication or surgery.”

Leakage caused by pregnancy is a type of pelvic floor disorder, which occurs when the muscles that control urination become weak or damaged. “Pelvic floor disorders usually affect about 1 in 3 women,” she points out. 

Women who have a cesarean section are less likely to have prolapse until they reach menopause. Once a patient is menopausal, there is no difference in the rates of prolapse – whether the patient had a C-section or a vaginal delivery. However, she reminds patients to not make a decision for a vaginal delivery versus a C-section based on this probability. “What’s more important to you should be: What’s the best thing for my baby?”

Urinary Leakage: Ways to Prevent and Manage It


While urinary incontinence is not completely avoidable, certain habits or lifestyle changes can help avoid or manage symptoms.

#1: Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises, or pelvic muscle strengthening exercises, can help make the muscles under the uterus, bladder and bowel stronger.

“The problem with kegels is you want to be 100-percent sure you’re contracting the right muscles,” Dr. Crisp warns. “Part of our routine physical exam is we always ask patients to contract the pelvic floor.”

She says women can correctly learn kegel exercises online, or she highly recommends visiting a gynecologist or trained physical therapist that specializes in pelvic floor physical therapy.

#2: Drink the Right Fluids at the Right Time

Women who experience any type of incontinence should avoid tea, coffee, soda, alcohol, or citrusy or caffeinated beverages.

What’s the best fluid to drink? “Water!” Dr. Crisp laughs. She also reminds women to stay hydrated – whether they have incontinence or not. “Most women know that they’re going to leak if their bladder is full so they – either intentionally or unintentionally – don’t drink as much as they should, but that’s not good for your body.”

It is also important to avoid drinking anything for about three hours before you go to bed.

#3: Maintain a Healthy Weight

Evidence shows that people who are obese can decrease the amount of incontinence they experience through weight loss, Dr. Crisp says. “It doesn’t necessarily make it perfect … but it decreases the amount of leakage that you have.”

Any type of high-impact exercise, like running or jumping, could make you more susceptible to leakage. 

She also mentions that swimming can be problematic for women who have urge incontinence because being surrounded by water creates a trigger to urinate. “But swimming, for someone who has just stress incontinence, is great because there’s no impact.”

Urinary Leakage: When to See a Doctor

“When a woman decides she is tired of changing pads, changing her undergarments and being embarrassed by her leakage, we will be here to help her get her life back,” Dr. Crisp explains.

Fixing urinary incontinence is rarely as simple as one visit, so she reminds patients that they have to be flexible and try different treatment options until they find the right fit for them.

“Regardless of which kind you have … there are things to do about both of them that will significantly improve your everyday life ... going to the bathroom every 20 minutes to every three hours is a huge deal,” she says. “Sleeping through the night? That’s the greatest thing you can give somebody.”

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