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Non-surgical treatment - Urinary incontinence

Treatment for urinary incontinence will depend on the type of incontinence you have. It will also depend on the severity of your symptoms.

It may be caused by an underlying condition. If it is, you may get treatment for this and incontinence treatment.

Treatments which do not involve medicine or surgery are tried first.

These include:

  • lifestyle changes
  • pelvic floor muscle training (Kegel exercises)
  • bladder training

After this, medicine or surgery may be considered.

Non-surgical treatment is usually managed by your GP along with a continence nurse advisor, physiotherapist or other health professionals.

Find out about surgery and procedures for urinary incontinence

Lifestyle changes

Your GP may suggest you make simple changes to your lifestyle to improve your symptoms.

For example, your GP may recommend:

  • reducing your caffeine intake – caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee and cola can increase the amount of urine your body makes
  • changing how much fluid you drink a day – too much or too little can make incontinence worse
  • losing weight if you are overweight or have obesity – use the Safe Food BMI calculator to find out if you're a healthy weight

Check your BMI -

Pelvic floor muscle training

Your pelvic floor muscles control the flow of urine as you pee. They surround the bladder and urethra.

Weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles can cause urinary incontinence. Exercising these muscles can strengthen them.

Your GP may refer you to a specialist to start a programme of pelvic floor muscle training. Women who complete pelvic floor muscle training have fewer leaking episodes. Pelvic floor muscle training can also reduce incontinence in men after prostate gland surgery.

Find out more about pelvic floor muscle exercises

Electrical stimulation

If you cannot contract your pelvic floor muscles, electrical stimulation may help. 

A small probe will be inserted into the vagina in women or the anus (bottom) in men. An electrical current runs through the probe. This helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles while you exercise them.

You may find electrical stimulation difficult or unpleasant to use. But it may help to complete pelvic floor muscle contractions.

Vaginal cones

Vaginal cones may be used by women to assist with pelvic floor muscle training. These are small weights that are inserted into the vagina.

You hold the weights in place using your pelvic floor muscles. When you can, you progress to the next vaginal cone, which weighs more.

Some women find vaginal cones uncomfortable or unpleasant to use. But they may help with stress or mixed urinary incontinence.

Bladder training

You may be offered bladder training if you have urge incontinence. This and pelvic floor muscle training can be recommended for mixed urinary incontinence.

You'll learn techniques to increase the length of time between feeling the need to pee. The course will usually last for at least 6 weeks.

Incontinence products

Incontinence products are useful while you're waiting for treatment to take effect.

Examples include:

  • absorbent products, such as incontinence pants or pads
  • handheld urinals
  • a catheter, a thin tube that is inserted into your bladder to drain urine
  • devices that are placed into the vagina or urethra to prevent urine leakage

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

Slaintecare logo
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