Treating Incontinence in Women: Non-surgical Methods

The best treatment for you will depend on the type of incontinence you have. Your symptoms, age, and any underlying problems that are found also affect your treatment. While some types of incontinence may eventually require surgery, non-surgical treatments may be effective in many cases. Non-surgical treatments include lifestyle changes, muscle-strengthening exercises, and medications.

Treatment recommendations for stress urinary incontinence

Guidelines from the American College of Physicians for treating stress urinary incontinence include:

  • Pelvic floor strengthening exercises (called Kegel exercises)

  • Kegel exercises and bladder training

  • Medications for urgency incontinence if bladder training has not helped

  • Lifestyle changes such as weight loss and increased activity if incontinence is due to being overweight

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Lifestyle changes

  • Quitting smoking. Smoking can lead to a chronic cough that strains pelvic floor muscles. Smoking may also damage the bladder and urethra.

  • Losing weight. Excess weight puts extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. Exercising and eating right can help you lose weight. This helps other treatments work better.

  • Making certain diet changes. Some foods may make you need to urinate more, so it may be good to avoid them. These include caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Ask your doctor whether these or other diet changes might be helpful.

Images of strong and weak pelvic floors

Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles act as a sling to help hold the bladder and urethra in place. These muscles also help keep the urethra closed. Weak pelvic floor muscles may allow urine to leak. To strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, do Kegel exercises daily. In a few months, the muscles will be stronger and tighter. This can help prevent urine leakage.