Original post written by Dr. Anna Garrett for LiveConfidently.com
When you go through menopause, estrogen levels drop. For some women, this can result in weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that support bladder control, causing LBL (light bladder leakage). You’ve probably heard about LBL. It’s that little leak that comes with a big sneeze or a hearty laugh. A range of things, from exercise to caffeinated drinks, can trigger it. It’s also part of that urgent “gotta go right now” feeling you might get on the way to the restroom.
But there’s good news! It’s a myth that LBL is something all women will experience because of menopause, and there are things you can do to manage any unwelcome leaks. Here are five simple tips to help keep you dry and comfortable.
1. Wear the Right Protective Products
Wear an absorbent pad or pantiliner designed just for bladder leaks if you’re going to be out and about. These pads and liners look and feel very similar to menstrual pads and liners, but are designed for very different needs. Because they are specifically designed to absorb bladder leaks, they can often hold two to three times as much urine as a menstrual pad or liner. They also do a better job of controlling odors caused by urine. Our blog post on Incontinence Products vs. Feminine Products further explores the differences between these products.
2. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can cause constipation, and constipation can contribute to bladder leakage for some women. Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day (although not too much), eat plenty of fiber, and exercise regularly to keep things moving.
3. Manage Your Schedule
When scheduling your workday, consider scheduling visits to the bathroom on regular, timed intervals throughout the day. This will give you time to change your protective products and help with training your bladder. It may be helpful to keep an incontinence journal for 5-7 days to pinpoint when you’re most likely to visit the bathroom, and then build your schedule from there.
4. Avoid Certain Foods and Drinks
Avoid caffeine and other drinks or foods that can irritate the lining of the bladder. If you don’t like drinking plain water, find one or two alternative drinks that are caffeine and acid free to substitute. And please note, sodas (even if caffeine-free) are very acidic and should be avoided. Our blog post on Foods and Drinks that can Trigger Incontinence has more information on items that can irritate the bladder.
5. Keep Your Pelvic Floor Muscles Strong
Try pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as Kegel exercises. These exercises are most effective for LBL, not heavier incontinence. To do this exercise, lie on the ground with your legs apart and feet flat on the floor. Gently contract your pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold this contraction for a few seconds and then release. Continue these exercises, completing three sets of 15 each day. With regular exercise, you should see an improvement within a few months.
If heavier incontinence is a problem, consider having a thorough evaluation of your pelvic floor. It’s possible, especially in menopause, that there is pelvic floor prolapse. In this situation, the nerves that control the bladder may not be connecting well with the pelvic muscles. This requires physical therapy and core strengthening. Kegel exercises could make incontinence worse if you have an undiagnosed pelvic floor muscle spasm, so be sure to check with your physician before getting started.
Remember, one in three women who are experiencing menopause are also experiencing LBL. You’re NOT alone! To connect with other women experiencing light bladder leakage in menopause, visit our incontinence forum. We’d love to hear your experiences, questions, and suggestions.