Q: How can bladder training techniques be used to help treat urinary incontinence?
A: Here’s a five-step bladder-training technique to help treat urge urinary incontinence (the sudden, intense urge to go that can cause leaks):
1. Keep track. For a day or two, keep a record of the number of times you urinate or leak urine.
2. Calculate. Using the data, determine, on average, how many hours you wait between urinations.
3. Choose an interval. Based on your typical interval between urinations, select a starting training interval that is 15 minutes longer. If your typical interval is one hour, make your starting interval one hour and 15 minutes.
4. Hold back. When you start training, empty your bladder first thing in the morning and then wait until the interval you’ve set. If the time arrives before you feel the urge, go anyway. If the urge hits first, remind yourself that your bladder isn’t really full, and use whatever techniques you can to delay going. Try the pelvic floor exercises called Kegels (in which you tighten your muscles as if you are trying to avoid passing gas), or simply try to wait another five minutes before walking slowly to the bathroom. Distracting yourself by starting dinner or opening the mail can also help.
5. Increase your interval. Once you are comfortable with your interval, increase it by 15 minutes. Over several weeks or months, you may find you are able to wait much longer and that you experience fewer episodes of incontinence.
—DR. MAY M. WAKAMATSU, Sharecare.com expert, OB/Gyn, Director, Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Massachusetts General Hospital
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