Tips for Preventing Urinary Incontinence
Chances are, urinary incontinence (UI) was nowhere near your radar until after you had your first baby. That’s probably the first time you noticed the muscles involved in bladder control seemed didn’t work if you were hit by a bout of coughing, sneezing, or uncontrolled laughter.
It’s estimated that up to 45% of women in the United States have some degree of UI, and it’s not just an older woman’s problem; UI affects millions of younger women, too. Women are twice as likely to have urinary incontinence as men, largely because pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause form a major trifecta of UI risk factors.
If you’re thinking about how you can prevent UI, you’re already one step ahead. Here at Tahoe Women’s Care in Carson City, Nevada, we strive to empower our patients with the kind of information and advice that helps them stay ahead of the curve, including how to prevent UI before it develops.
Defining urinary incontinence
UI, also known as loss of bladder control or urinary leakage, involves the involuntary leaking of urine, either in the form of a few drops or something more severe. Because UI is a problem that takes several different forms, each type is generally defined by its underlying cause. The most common UI problems are:
The most prevalent form of UI involves leakage that occurs when physical movement puts pressure on the bladder. Women with stress incontinence typically leak urine when they cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or lift something heavy.
Also known as having an overactive bladder, urge incontinence involves the strong, sudden urge to urinate, followed by uncontrollable leakage. This type of UI sometimes happens when it’s least expected, such as when you’re asleep or when you hear the sound of running water.
Many women experience mixed incontinence, meaning they have symptoms of stress incontinence as well as urge incontinence.
Preventing urinary incontinence
Although you may not be able to prevent UI caused by something like an anatomical problem or nerve damage, there’s a lot you can do to prevent the most common, run-of-the-mill types of UI.
If you adhere to the following UI prevention advice, not only will you substantially decrease your chances of developing UI, but you’ll also boost your overall long-term health.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Although it may be easier said than done, losing excess fat and maintaining a healthy body weight can go a long way in helping prevent UI.
That’s because carrying extra weight increases the amount of pressure on your bladder and the muscles that surround it. This constant pressure can weaken both your bladder and your control muscles, making you more likely to leak urine when you cough or lift something heavy.
Being overweight also means you’re more likely to have (or eventually have) diabetes, and being diabetic also increases your risk of developing UI.
Exercise your pelvic floor
Your pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that sits at the bottom of your abdominal cavity. When you contract those muscles by pulling them up and in, they lift your internal organs and tighten the openings of your vagina, urethra, and anus.
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, help strengthen these muscles so you have more control over the flow of urine, especially when you feel a strong urge to go but aren’t near a bathroom.
The number of squeezes, or contractions, you perform each day isn’t as important as your consistency — find a good time every morning and every evening to do a few Kegels, and you’ll notice improved control before you know it.
Eat a fiber-rich diet
Long-term constipation can cause UI, particularly in older women. To prevent this problem, include plenty of fiber-rich foods in your diet. Getting enough fiber every day helps normalize your bowel movements, supports healthy cholesterol levels, and can even help you maintain a healthy body weight.
To boost your fiber intake, include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, trade refined grain products for whole grains, eat more nuts and seeds, and make beans, peas, and other legumes a regular staple.
Limit caffeine and other bladder irritants
Caffeine, alcohol, and acidic foods and beverages can irritate your bladder and cause leakage, so if you’re at risk of developing UI, you may want to curb your intake of these items. Don’t limit your intake of water, however — adequate hydration is important for supporting a fiber-rich diet as well as maintaining consistent urinary habits.
Don’t smoke cigarettes
Although medical researchers aren’t quite sure exactly how UI and smoking are linked, one thing is certain: Smokers tend to have more frequent and more severe urine leaks. If you smoke and you were looking for yet another reason to quit, now you have it!
If you’d like to learn more about specific ways you can reduce your personal UI risk, Tahoe Women’s Care can help. Call our office in Carson City, Nevada, or make your appointment using our convenient online booking tool.