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Tips & Advice: How Bladder Retraining Works

Many women who experience urgent messages from their bladder and as a consequence, an embarrassing accident on the way to the bathroom, learn to get to the bathroom at the first sense of urgency. This can lead to frequent bathroom trips, as frequently as every 20-30 minutes. This urge incontinence forces many women to act at the mercy of their bladder. Everyday enjoyable activities have to be curtailed because a bathroom is not nearby.

A method of taking control over the bladder's urges is referred to as bladder retraining. Although bladder retraining does take time and a concentrated effort to accomplish, the beneficial results are well worth it.

The goal of bladder retraining is to slowly increase the amount of urine the bladder can hold so that the intervals between voidings are longer. The average adult should urinate every 2-4 hours during the day and may get up once at night to urinate. By retraining the bladder, more control is achieved and the bladder is now on your schedule.

Steps in bladder retraining (also referred to as timed voiding):

Begin by urinating at specific intervals throughout the day

It is helpful to keep a voiding diary for a week before bladder retraining is started. This allows you to see the interval at which you are currently voiding. For example, if you are using the bathroom every 30 minutes in the morning, you might begin by setting an interval a little longer than that, such as 45 minutes.

Urinate at that interval of time, whether there is an urge or not

A vibrating watch or small pager device that can be set for intervals of time insures more compliance with this difficult step. No matter how well intentioned you may be, time can pass by quickly without some kind of a reminder.

If the urge comes sooner than the pre-set time, sit very still and concentrate on decreasing the urge

Relax and try to think of something other than the urge. Take several deep breaths through your nose and out through your mouth. Since urges come in waves, the intensity will decrease if you relax.

Tighten the pelvic floor muscles and hold for five seconds

Squeeze three or four more times to keep the leaking from occurring.

Once the urge has passed, walk slowly to the bathroom to urinate

If the urge returns on the way to the bathroom, repeat these techniques.

Even with practice, occasional leaking may occur. Don't be discouraged

Controlling urges gets easier with time. It's easier to begin these exercises when you are in your own home, where changes of clothes are more convenient.

Be patient

Commit to practicing these techniques everyday for least six weeks. You should be seeing improvement at that time. Some women find that once success is achieved, practicing a few times a week is what is needed to maintain continence. Like other muscles that have become toned with exercise, the pelvic floor muscles need regular attention.


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