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10 ways to stop leaks - Urinary incontinence

Some self-help tips and lifestyle changes can relieve symptoms of urinary incontinence.

Do daily pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises can be effective at reducing leaks. But it's important to do them properly and ideally under the supervision of a continence advisor or physiotherapist.

You may have to do pelvic floor exercises for 3 months before you see any benefits.

Find out how to do pelvic floor exercises

Stop smoking

If you smoke, you put yourself at risk of incontinence. This is because coughing puts strain on your pelvic floor muscles.

Get help with giving up smoking

Do the right exercises

High-impact exercise puts pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and can increase leaks.

Replace high-impact exercise with strengthening exercise, such as pilates. Pilates strengthens your core muscles, which is beneficial for stress incontinence.

Avoid lifting

Lifting puts strain on your pelvic floor muscles, so avoid it whenever you can.

When you do need to lift something, tighten your pelvic floor muscles before and during the lift.

Lose excess weight

Being overweight can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. This can cause incontinence because of the pressure of fatty tissue on your bladder.

Your symptoms may improve and could go away completely if you lose any excess weight.

Use the Safe Food Ireland BMI calculator to check you're a healthy weight for your height.

Check your BMI -

Find out how a good diet helps your health

Treat constipation quickly

Straining to poo weakens your pelvic floor muscles and makes urinary incontinence worse.

Never ignore the urge to poo. If you have constipation, it may help to change your diet and lifestyle.

Eating more fibre and exercising more can help. It may also help if you change the way you sit and use your muscles to empty your bowels. A specialist physiotherapist can advise you on this.

How to eat well

Cut down on caffeine

Caffeine irritates the bladder and can make incontinence worse.

Coffee has the biggest effect, so stop drinking it or switch to decaffeinated coffee.

Fizzy drinks, tea, green tea, energy drinks and hot chocolate also contain caffeine. Cut down on these too and replace them with water and herbal or fruit teas.

Cut down on alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you pee more often. Cutting down may help incontinence symptoms.

Benefits of cutting down on alcohol

Drink plenty of water

Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day unless your GP tells you otherwise.

Many people with urinary incontinence think that drinking fluids causes more problems. But limiting your fluid intake makes incontinence worse. This is because it reduces your bladder's capacity.

Not drinking enough fluid can also cause constipation or make it worse.

Eat the right foods

Avoid spicy and acidic foods, such as curries and citrus fruits. These can irritate the bladder and make leaks and other incontinence symptoms worse.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 10 August 2021
Next review due: 10 August 2024