Stress Urinary Incontinence: Seven Tips to Stop Leaks and Stay Dry

Your brain says you don’t need to use the bathroom, but your bladder disagrees, resulting in a leak. Urinary incontinence can be inconvenient and embarrassing, but it’s also common. Millions of Americans over age 60 suffer from it. Even though urinary incontinence is more prevalent in older adults, it’s not a normal part of the aging process.

There are three broad categories of urinary incontinence: nocturia (getting up multiple times at night to use the bathroom), urge incontinence (you have the urge to go but urine comes out before you’re ready) and the most common, especially for women – stress incontinence (leaking when you cough, sneeze, laugh or jump on a trampoline).

Before you stop laughing at jokes or jumping on trampolines, you should know that stress incontinence is treatable, and there’s no reason to let it affect your quality of life. Mercy Clinic urologist Dr. Matthew Kincade has seven things you should know about stopping leaks.

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. Once you do, you’ll realize it was no big deal. Remember, your doctor has heard it all.
  2. Keep a bladder diary. You can create your own or use this template to write down the date, time, level of urgency, number of leaks, etc. It can be a great resource when you and your doctor are discussing treatment options.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can put extra pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and contribute to incontinence.
  4. Quit smoking. Smoking generally leads to coughing, which leads to increased strain on your pelvic floor muscles.
  5. Consider physical therapy. If your pelvic floor muscles have been stretched, they can’t hold in urine like they’re supposed to. Your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy as your first step in treatment to help you regain control of those muscles.
  6. Exercise your pelvic muscles. You may have heard of Kegel exercises – they are easy and you can do them anywhere. Simply find the muscles you use to stop urinating. Squeeze them for three seconds, then relax three seconds. Repeat 10-15 times, three times a day. Add one second every week until you’re able to squeeze for 10 seconds at a time.
  7. As a last resort, schedule surgery. If exercises aren’t successful in treating your stress incontinence, your doctor may suggest a surgical option like implanting a sling under your urethra to pull it up and keep it in place. The surgery is minimally-invasive and only lasts a few hours.

If you won’t leave your house because you’re afraid you’ll have an accident, or if you walk into a store and immediately map out a path to the restroom, it’s time to make a doctor’s appointment. The idea of discussing urinary incontinence may make you cringe, but it’s important to summon the courage and take that step. If you’re concerned about urinary incontinence, our physicians are too. We’ll work closely with you to develop a care plan specific to your needs.

We’ll get you back to living life to the fullest – enjoying your family, watching funny movies and being physically active – all while staying dry.

Written by Matthew Kincade, MD

Matthew Kincade, MD, is a urologist at Mercy Clinic Urology – S. Fremont. 
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