Is bladder training really beneficial?

Ask the doctors

Q. I suffer from mild urinary incontinence. A friend suggested that I try bladder training. Is this a real treatment?

A. Yes, some women with urinary frequency and overactive bladder might benefit from bladder training. The idea behind bladder training is to teach your body to respond more appropriately to bladder signals.

Some women get in the habit of emptying their bladder before it's full, which can cause your body to start sending out premature alerts to urinate before you really need to do so. Bladder training seeks to eliminate these malfunctioning signals by encouraging women to urinate on a schedule, essentially retraining the body to cut down on urinary frequency. Your doctor may recommend bladder training alone or in combination with other therapies. One study found that women ages 55 and older who engaged in bladder training for six weeks reduced urine leakage by half when compared with women who didn't do bladder training. Interested in giving it a try? Start by charting how often you are urinating and slowly try to increase those intervals in 15-minute increments over time. Documenting your efforts in a journal can help you see if you are making progress. You can find more detailed information on this topic in the Harvard Special Health Report Better Bowel and Bladder Control. To order, go to www.health.harvard.edu/bbbc.

— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Toni Golen, M.D.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Image: diephosi/Getty Images

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