From Frustration to Freedom : Self-Care Tips for Urinary Incontinence

Author : Dr. Sachin Arakere Natara

Head & Lead- Urology, Aster Whitefield Hospital,  Bengaluru 

Picture a life where every cough, sneeze, or laugh brings the fear of embarrassment – this is the reality for those living with urinary incontinence. Living with this condition can be challenging, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Urinary incontinence is a condition where one cannot control their bladder which results in unintentional passing of urine. It varies from small leaks to uncontrollable urination across people.

Silencing the shame

Even though the condition is common and affects lots of people, most of the people affected doesn’t seek proper treatment due to the embarrassment associated to it. Due to the underlying embarrassment, people don’t get the proper support or diagnosis that is required. Urinary continence is not a disease, it is rather a condition that needs to be addressed with understanding, compassion, and proactive management strategies. People who are suffering from urinary incontinence can tackle the condition by adapting to certain practices and lifestyle changes. The condition cannot be reversed; individuals need to learn to live with it. Hence, it is important to support them in the process as they need it to overcome the embarrassing feeling.

Identifying your triggers

Urinary continence varies in its symptoms from one person to another. It is important to know your triggers. For some, stress is the biggest trigger. But for some, it is the physical pressure on the bladder like when the person laughs, coughs or sneezes. When the individual recognises their triggers, it makes them aware of when to be careful. There can be lifestyle triggers that can contribute to the condition like use of excessive caffeine, alcohol consumption or smoking. If the triggers include food habits, it can be avoided by restricting the particular food items. In people who had traumatic experiences, triggers like mental breakdowns, anxiety, panic attacks can be triggers. These can be reversed by proper trauma care, therapy and counselling. In some women, pregnancy, menstruation cycle, menopause are all triggers that occur due to change in hormones. These can be taken care of by consulting with a health care professional.   

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Healthy lifestyle is extremely important when it comes to living with urinary incontinence.  Maintaining a proper sleep schedule plays a huge role. Have a proper sleep pattern that doesn’t disturb your body. The diet you follow needs to be balanced and provide nutrition for your everyday activities. Food that triggers urinary incontinence should be completely avoided. The intake of water needs to be calculated as the daily water consumption shouldn’t exceed 8 ounces or 2 litres of water. Consumption of more water could lead to excessive urination and triggering the bladder. However, one needs to drink water throughout the day, but should be mindful to not drink too much fluids close to bedtime. Maintain a healthy weight as it could cause pressure to the pelvic floor muscles and bladder. This can be managed by engaging in physical activities and exercises.

Measures to manage the condition

Incorporating certain steps in your daily routine can create effective impacts on your condition. Incorporating exercises that engages the pelvic floor and core needs to be incorporated. Exercises like Kegel can be helpful in reducing leaks as it strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. One can notice possible positive changes after practicing pelvic floor exercises for at least a duration of 3 months. Apart from Kegel exercises, exercises that regulates pressure in the pelvic floor can also be beneficial. High – impact sit ups, squats and pilates can also be included. However, one should avoid lifting weights as it can exert pressure on the pelvic floor.

Avoid holding your urine in the bladder for longer time as it could lead to urinary incontinence. Constipation can sometimes also be a reason why this condition exists; hence it is important to treat your bowel issues. Quit smoking as it could result in chronic coughs that can insert pressure in the pelvic floor. Replace caffeinated coffee with decaffeinated coffee, herbal teas or green tea and reduce the trigger caused on the bladder.

Living with urinary incontinence may present challenges, but it does not define one's worth or quality of life. By breaking the silence, identifying triggers, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and implementing management measures, individuals can reclaim control over their bladder health. Remember, seeking support from healthcare professionals, loved ones, and support groups is essential in navigating this journey with understanding and compassion.