Urinary incontinence

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What you can do

You don't have to live with urinary incontinence. There are things you can do to successfully gain better control.

For women

Losing bladder control (also known as urinary incontinence) is a common and treatable condition that affects women of all ages. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, nerve damage, medications, or being overweight can weaken the muscles that control urine flow.

There are three types of urinary incontinence:

  • Stress: During exercise, sneezing, coughing, or laughing, leaking occurs.
  • Urge: You feel a sudden or abrupt need to empty your bladder.
  • Overflow: Your bladder overfills and urine leaks out, without warning.

Bladder training, such as Kegel exercises, can help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve your bladder control. Doing Kegel exercises correctly and on a regular basis can help strengthen those muscles that support your bladder and prevent urinary incontinence.

To do Kegels, contract the muscles you use to stop urinating. Squeeze for 3 seconds then relax for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times, at least 3 times a day.

Other tips include urinating on a schedule, avoiding caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea, losing weight to reduce pressure against the bladder, and modifying or stopping medication that may contribute to incontinence. (Talk with your doctor about changing or stopping any medication.)

If you are experiencing urine leakage or increased urinary frequency, take control.

For men

Men also can also experience urinary leakage, especially if they have prostate problems. Learn more about urinary incontinence in men.

Reviewed by: Helene Martel, MA, March 2016
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers 

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