Improving Your Urinary Continence

This information will help you improve your urinary continence.

Urinary continence is the ability to prevent accidental leakage of urine from your bladder. If you have accidental leakage, this is called incontinence. Some of the reasons you may experience incontinence include having had surgery or radiation to your pelvis or having an overactive bladder.

There are several steps you can take to help retrain your bladder and improve your urinary continence. This process depends on your diagnosis and type of treatment that you had. Follow the instructions below. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or nurse.

Empty Your Bladder on a Schedule

  • Urinate every 1 to 2 hours, if possible.
    • If you still have leakage during that time, empty your bladder more often.
    • If you haven’t had any leakage after 1 or 2 hours, increase the time between urinations.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to urinate.
  • Urinate as much as you can each time you use the toilet.
  • If you have trouble urinating, urinate once, and then walk away from the toilet. In 5 to 10 minutes, urinate again. Use your abdominal muscles to help empty your bladder.
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Record How Much and How Often You Urinate

Your doctor or nurse will give you:

  • A form or diary to record how much and how often you urinate
  • A plastic urine collection “hat” if you are a woman or a urinal if you are a man

Choose any 3-day period. During those 3 days, men should urinate only into the urinal. Women should place the urine collection hat under the toilet seat and urinate into it. Each time you urinate, measure the amount of urine and record it in your form or diary. Then, pour the urine into the toilet and flush. If you leave home during your collection period, take the urinal or hat and form or diary with you.

If you experience any 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 or are unable to measure your urine, tell your doctor or nurse.

Bring the form or diary with you to your next doctor’s office visit. Your doctor will review and discuss it with you.

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Do Kegel Exercises

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

To find your pelvic floor muscles, imagine you are urinating, and 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 the Kegel exercises:

  1. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 2 to 3 seconds
  2. Relax the muscles completely for 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat this 10 times.

Start doing the Kegel exercises 3 times a day. Increase them to 7 to 10 times a day, as recommended by your doctor.

When you have the urge to urinate, do the Kegel exercises 4 to 5 times. Concentrate on stopping the urge to urinate. Also do these exercises before coughing, bending, or lifting.

For more information, see 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:

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Limit or Avoid Foods and Liquids That Irritate Your Bladder

There are certain foods and liquids that can irritate your bladder, which are listed in the table in these section. These include foods and liquids that contain caffeine and chocolate. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means that it is likely to make you urinate more often.

You may need to change your diet in order to decrease how often you need to urinate. Try to limit the number of these foods and drinks that you have at one time. For example, if you drink coffee, try not to also use milk and a sweetener. Don’t have apple juice and cereal with milk and bananas for breakfast.

Food type Do not eat
  • Bananas
  • Citrus fruits and juices (low acid are allowed, such as Tropicana Pure Premium® Low Acid Orange Juice)
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Guava
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Plums and prunes
  • Avocado
  • Chili peppers
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • Tomatoes
Dairy products
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Alcohol
  • Apple juice
  • Carbonated drinks (sodas)
  • Coffee (decaffeinated coffee is allowed)
  • Tea, caffeinated (decaffeinated tea is allowed)
  • Caffeine (including caffeinated coffee, tea, soda, and some medications)
  • Chocolate (carob and white chocolate are allowed)
  • Corned beef
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Nuts
  • Mayonnaise
  • NutraSweet® sugar substitute
  • Rye bread
  • Sour cream (imitation sour cream is allowed)
  • Soy sauce
  • Vinegar
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