Improving Your Urinary Continence

This information will help you improve your urinary continence.

Urinary continence is the ability to keep from accidentally leaking urine (pee) from your bladder. Accidentally leaking urine is called incontinence. Incontinence can be caused by surgery or radiation therapy to your pelvis or having an overactive bladder.

There are several things you can do to help retrain your bladder and improve your urinary continence. Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about which ones are best for you. This depends on your diagnosis and type of treatment that you had. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or nurse.

Drink Fewer Liquids

  • Limit the amount of liquid you drink, if your doctor or nurse tells you to. There’s no set amount of water that you need. You should drink when you’re thirsty.
  • If you urinate (pee) often at night, don’t drink any liquids after dinner.
  • If you take medication at night, take it with only a sip of water.
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Empty Your Bladder on a Schedule

  • Urinate every 1 to 2 hours, if you can.
    • If you still leak urine during that time, urinate more often.
    • If you haven’t leaked any urine after 1 or 2 hours, increase the time between urinations.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to urinate.
  • Urinate as much as you can each time you go.
  • If you have trouble urinating, urinate once, then walk away from the toilet. In 5 to 10 minutes, urinate again. Use your abdominal (belly) muscles to help empty your bladder.
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Keep a Urination Log

Your doctor or nurse will give you:

  • A urination log to write down how much and how often you urinate.
  • A plastic container to catch your urine. This will be a collection “hat” if you’re female or urinal if you’re male.

Choose any 3-day period. During those 3 days, urinate only into the hat or urinal. Each time you urinate, measure the amount of urine. Write it in your urination log. Then, pour the urine into the toilet and flush. If you leave home during your collection period, take the urinal or hat and urination log with you.

If you have incontinence, write that down as well. Write down if it happened:

  • When you were straining.
  • During stress on your bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, bending, lifting, or a change in position.
  • With an uncontrollable urge.
  • On the way to the toilet.
  • Without you knowing it.

If you forget to measure your urine or can’t measure your urine, tell your doctor or nurse.

Bring your urination log with you to your next appointment. Your doctor or nurse will review and discuss it with you.

 
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Do Kegel (Pelvic Floor Muscle) Exercises

The goal of Kegel exercises is to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This can help prevent urinary incontinence.

To find your pelvic floor muscles, imagine you’re urinating. Contract the muscles you would need to stop the stream of urine. You can also tighten the muscles that you use to hold back gas when you don’t want to pass it.

To do Kegel exercises:

  1. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 2 to 3 seconds.
  2. Relax the muscles completely for 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat this exercise 10 times. This is one set.

Start out doing 3 sets of Kegel exercises each day. Increase them to 7 to 10 sets a day, as recommended by your doctor.

When you have the urge to urinate, do 4 to 5 Kegel exercises. Concentrate on stopping the urge to urinate. You should also do Kegel exercises before coughing, bending, or lifting.

For more information, read the resource Pelvic Floor Muscle (Kegel) Exercises for Women or Pelvic Floor Muscle (Kegel) Exercises for Men. For more specific tips on doing Kegel exercises, visit the website for the National Association for Continence (NAFC) at www.nafc.com.

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Limit or Avoid Foods and Drinks That Irritate Your Bladder

Certain foods and drinks can irritate your bladder. Examples include foods and drinks with caffeine or chocolate. More examples are listed in the table below.

You might need to change your diet to try to limit the number of these foods and drinks that you have at once. For example, don’t have apple juice, cereal with milk, and a banana for breakfast. If you drink coffee, try not to also use milk and a sweetener. Changing your diet can help you need to urinate less often.

Food type Foods to Limit
Fruits
  • Bananas
  • Citrus fruits and juices (it’s okay to have low-acid juices, such as Tropicana Pure Premium® Low Acid Orange Juice)
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Guava
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Plums and prunes
Vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Chili peppers
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • Tomatoes
Dairy products
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
Drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Apple juice
  • Carbonated drinks (sodas)
  • Coffee (it’s okay to have decaffeinated coffee)
  • Caffeinated tea (it’s okay to have decaffeinated tea)
Other
  • Caffeine (including caffeinated coffee, tea, soda, and some medications)*
  • Chocolate (it’s okay to have carob and white chocolate)
  • Corned beef
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Nuts
  • Mayonnaise
  • NutraSweet® sugar substitute
  • Rye bread
  • Sour cream (it’s okay to have imitation sour cream)
  • Soy sauce
  • Vinegar

* Caffeine is also a diuretic. This means it’s likely to make you urinate more often.

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