What is bladder training?

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Bladder training: Overview

Bladder training is used to treat urge incontinence and stress incontinence. Urge incontinence means that the need to urinate comes on so fast that you can't get to a toilet in time. Stress incontinence means that you leak urine because of pressure on your bladder. For example, it may happen when you laugh, cough, or lift something heavy.

Bladder training can increase how long you can wait before you have to urinate. It can also help your bladder hold more urine. And it can give you better control over the urge to urinate.

It is important to remember that bladder training takes a few weeks to a few months to make a difference. You may not see results right away, but don't give up.

How can you care for yourself during bladder training?

Work with your doctor to come up with a bladder training program that is right for you. You may use one or more of the following methods.

Delayed urination

  • In the beginning, try to keep from urinating for 5 minutes after you first feel the need to go.
  • While you wait, take deep, slow breaths to relax. Kegel exercises can also help you delay the need to go to the bathroom.
  • After some practice, when you can easily wait 5 minutes to urinate, try to wait 10 minutes before you urinate.
  • Slowly increase the waiting period until you are able to control when you have to urinate.

Scheduled urination

  • Empty your bladder when you first wake up in the morning.
  • Schedule times throughout the day when you will urinate.
  • Start by going to the bathroom every hour, even if you don't need to go.
  • Slowly increase the time between trips to the bathroom.
  • When you have found a schedule that works well for you, keep doing it.
  • If you wake up during the night and have to urinate, do it. Apply your schedule to waking hours only.

Kegel exercises

These tighten and strengthen pelvic muscles, which can help you control the flow of urine. (If doing these exercises causes pain, stop doing them and talk with your doctor.) To do Kegel exercises:

  • Squeeze your muscles as if you were trying not to pass gas. Or squeeze your muscles as if you were stopping the flow of urine. Your belly, legs, and buttocks shouldn't move.
  • Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, then relax for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Start with 3 seconds, then add 1 second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat the exercise 10 times a session. Do 3 to 8 sessions a day.

What can you expect after using behavioral methods for urinary incontinence?

These methods are often successful in reducing or stopping urinary incontinence.

What are the risks of using behavioral methods for urinary incontinence?

No risks are associated with these treatments.

Bladder training: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your incontinence is getting worse.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Why are behavioral methods for urinary incontinence used?

Behavioral methods may be used to treat:

  • Urge incontinence (using bladder training).
  • Stress and urge incontinence (using pelvic muscle exercises).

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.