Did You Know You Can Retrain Your Bladder?
Part 1: About Bladder Retraining
By Linda Verde
Hup-two-three-four. Hup-two-three-four. Vesica urinaria, halt!
Wouldn’t it be nice if your bladder (vesica urinaria) were trained to be stopped with a command? Of course, that means some of us would be talking to it a lot. “Stop!” “Don’t you dare!” “This is not the time or place!” Maybe you’re adept at walking with your legs crossed (don’t laugh, it can be done), but bladder retraining is a better solution.
You may wonder how retraining your bladder works (watch for Part 2 of this blog) because up to now you have been reacting to the urges it sends you. Does it have you trained? No more!
Retraining your bladder puts you in control, not the other way around. Your bladder trains itself by building habits. Going to the bathroom frequently to prevent leaks does the opposite; your bladder learns to empty as soon as it has some fluid. Using that same characteristic to retrain it makes perfect sense.
What is Bladder Retraining?
Bladder training is a behavioural therapy. Imagine three or four hours between bathroom visits, sleeping through the night, less leaking, and getting to the bathroom in time. Wouldn’t you like to stop scheduling your life around bathroom availability – or worse, staying home to avoid embarrassment?
Four Components of Bladder Retraining
- A scheduled time for peeing
- Suppressing urges at other times
- Kegel exercises—every day
- Keeping a diary
This therapy works for women, men, and children, too. Is it for you? Your health care professional (HCP) will know by the cause and kind of your urinary incontinence. Women’s major causes are childbirth and menopause. Some other causes are conditions such as interstitial cystitis (IC), prostate issues, diabetes, neurological issues, and obesity.
There are different causes for urinary incontinence. What kind of incontinence do you have: Urge, Stress, Overflow, Transient? To learn more about the different types: Do you Leak? You're Not Alone...
Questions to ask your family doctor
- What kind of incontinence do I have?
- Will bladder training help me?
- What type of bladder training will work best for me?
- What should I write down in a diary to keep track of my urination?
- Is there anything else I should do to improve my urinary incontinence? Taken from What is Bladder Training?
The good news: all can be addressed with bladder retraining. The bad news: It takes 6-12 weeks of hard work for retraining. According to the Bladder & Bowel Community (B&BC), “Resisting messages from your bladder will not be easy. . . . The cycle of discomfort, even panic, followed by brief relief is very hard to break.” Harvard’s Healthbeat cautions that you may need to try different approaches to find the best one for you. More good news: it works! Be patient and focus on your successes, not your setbacks, advises B&BC. They also suggest that dealing with any psychological issues associated with your bladder problems helps you succeed.
To check out Part 2 of this series -- click here!