Bladder Retraining for Urinary Incontinence

bladder retraining timed intervals

Bladder retraining incorporates going to the bathroom at set times.

The first goal of bladder retraining for your urinary incontinence symptoms is to empty your bladder before you leak. The second goal is to begin to train your bladder to hold more urine for longer periods of time. Bladder training is usually safe, but you should see a health care provider to make sure that you don’t have a bladder infection before starting bladder retraining.

There are a few different ways to retrain the bladder. One of the easiest ways is to begin by urinating every hour, on the hour. (If you can’t hold it for one hour, pick a time that you can easily manage such as twenty or thirty minutes.) Go to the bathroom and try to empty your bladder at regular times all day while you are awake. Each week, gradually increase the time between voiding by 15 minutes. Continue to do this until you reach a length of time that is reasonable for your lifestyle and healthy for your body. Do not try to hold your bladder for more than four hours at a time.

Who Should Try Bladder Retraining?

Bladder retraining is a non-invasive treatment that can be used for many types of urinary incontinence. It works best for people with bladders that want to go all the time (we call that overactive bladder or OAB – if the urge leads to leaking, the leak is called urge incontinence). It also works very well for people who have to go to the bathroom more than 6 times a day and who leak when they sneeze or cough (called mixed incontinence, because it is a mix of both stress urinary incontinence and urge incontinence).

Deciding If This Might Work for You

  • Bladder retraining doesn’t hurt and almost anyone can try it (although it might be hard for people who can’t move quickly).
  •  If you start bladder retraining and you don’t like it, you can just stop.
  •  Not everyone can achieve complete dryness and absorbent products still may need to be worn.
  •  It takes weeks to get better.
  •  It takes a lot of mental focus to remember to go to the bathroom on time.
  • Bladder retraining works by going to the bathroom at just the right time every day.  But if there is a change — like being stuck in traffic — there may still be leaking. You can’t always predict what will happen, so the worry is still there and you may still have to wear special protection.

Medical Reviewer: Diana Hankey-Underwood, MS, WHNP-BC

Diana Hankey-UnderwoodDiana Hankey-Underwood, MS, WHNP-BC, is Executive Director of Grace Anatomy, Inc. She was recently awarded two National awards: the Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health Bayer Health Care 2007 Inspiration in Women’s Health Award and the National Association For Continence 2007 Continence Care Champion (CCC) award.  Her current work includes research on results of pelvic floor surgery, teaching classes on incontinence and working with international surgeons on improving the outcomes for children born with birth defects of the genitourinary and GI systems.

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