I work in the home health setting and the majority of my patient population is over 60 years old. The overwhelming majority of my female patients suffer from urinary incontinence because they didn’t practice healthy bladder habits. They either cannot get to the bathroom fast enough or they cannot control their pelvic muscles and dribble when they cough or laugh. When I question them about this, they will confidently tell me that incontinence is normal for their age.
Please listen to me.
Incontinence is NOT a normal part of aging! It is something that needs to be addressed and it can be corrected.
Starting healthy bladder habits at an early age allows you to train your pelvic floor muscles to be well conditioned as you age.
Healthy Bladder Habits
Go every 3 – 4 hours, 5 -7 times per day
Your bladder takes 3 hours to totally fill and can hold roughly 20 ounces of fluid. Poor habits, medications, or intake of bladder irritants such as coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, or citrus can be causes for a higher number of trips to the bathroom.
BONUS TIP: If the urge to pee hits you and it has been less than 2 hours since your last bathroom trip, perform a kegel and see if you can hold off from going to the bathroom right away.
Do not go “just in case”
“You better go to the bathroom now because we won’t be stopping for hours,” is something that your mom probably told you before going on long trips. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this but she was wrong. You should only go to the bathroom when you need to, not “just in case” which causes poor bladder habits.
Go for 8 Mississippi’s
Each time you pee, your bladder should empty at least half of its capacity. If you are only counting to 4 Mississippi, you did not wait for your bladder to fully fill up before you went to pee.
BONUS TIP: Women are especially prone to urinary tract infections. One way to reduce your risk is to completely empty your bladder when you pee. If you tighten your muscles too soon to stop your pee, then the pee that didn’t make it out heads back to your bladder which can bring bacteria into your system.
In order to empty your bladder, the pelvic floor muscles need to relax and the bladder contracts. There should be no need to strain. So do not bear down on your pelvic muscles when you are peeing.
BONUS TIP: Sitting on the toilet, not hovering, places the pelvic floor muscles in the proper position to relax.
For a long time the recommended amount of fluid intake was approximately 48 – 64 ounces, or 6 – 8 cups a day. Dehydration can lead to increased concentration of urine, which our body wants to remove. This leads to increased urge and frequency.
BONUS TIP: If you are breastfeeding, drink 2 cups, 16 ounces, of water after each feeding to stay hydrated.
Constipation causes chronic straining and increased pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. Over time, this increase of pressure can lead to weakness of the pelvic floor muscles, which then intensifies urinary incontinence. To avoid this, make sure you drink a lot of water and eat the recommended amount of fiber.