Regain Control: What to do for an Overactive Bladder
An overactive bladder can cause feelings of frustration and helplessness when the sudden urge to urinate dictates the ability to do things. If you have an overactive bladder, there are some ways you can help control those urges to run to the bathroom – in fact it’s possible to “train” your bladder to empty less frequently.
Exercise Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Pelvic floor muscles keep you from urinating when you are not using the bathroom. Weak pelvic floor muscles make it easier for urine to pass through involuntarily. Kegel exercises were developed by Arnold Kegel, MD in the 1940s to help strengthen these muscles. These exercises have been shown to help many patients with overactive bladders.
It is important to do them regularly to keep the muscles toned and to strengthen the urinary sphincter, which also helps keep urine from escaping.
The best way to find these muscles is to sit on the toilet and start urinating. Try to stop the flow of urine midstream using only your internal muscles; these are your pelvic floor muscles, and are the focus of the Kegel exercises. You can do these anywhere and no one would be the wiser. Simply contract the pelvic floor muscles 10 times for three sessions daily. You should be relaxed while doing them, so don’t hold your breath or tighten your abdominal muscles.
Do these exercises consistently and you will be able to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and, hopefully, the overactive bladder will be more controllable. Be careful as, if you overdo it, you may experience the opposite effect. If done right, there should be positive results in a few weeks, possibly a few months.
Timing your bathroom breaks
This is a technique called timed voiding. You will empty your bladder at designated times of the day, even if you don’t have the urge, which will help train your bladder to urinate when you desire. Start with monitoring the number of times you go to the bathroom during the day, then begin adding 15 minutes to the usual interval. If you urinate every hour, for example, push it to every hour and 15 minutes instead. Keep doing this until you are able to feel fewer urges in between your “scheduled” time to go. You will then add 15 or 30 minutes (whichever you are comfortable with) to the interval again. Ultimately you should be attempting to urinate every 2 to 3 hours without discomfort or accidents. This can take many weeks to accomplish so don’t be discouraged.
You may try this technique: go to the bathroom to urinate. When you finish, stand up for a few minutes and try to empty your bladder again to be sure it emptied completely. Lean over when sitting on the toilet to put pressure on the bladder so it empties more.
Wait to go
Try to delay urinating. If you feel an urge coming on, just focus on the sensation in your bladder then do several Kegel contractions. This will help the sensation go away or reduce the feeling of urinating.
There are people who have a problem with the muscles of the bladder wall contracting at the wrong time. Anticholinergics are a class of drugs that block the nerve signals to the bladder muscles so that the urge to urinate decreases. If you are having difficulty with an overactive bladder, even after doing Kegels and other techniques described here, you should see your doctor. You may need medication to get your overactive bladder under control. Wear absorbent pads to help with any leakage in the meantime. Also avoid caffeine as it irritates the bladder and refrain from drinking liquids before bedtime.