Bladder problems

Bladder problems are common in women, especially after childbirth. Rather than” grin and bear it” women can do a lot to improve the functioning of their bladders. Here is what you can do:

The Perfect Pee

The Perfect Pee

Sitting on the toilet to empty our bladder is something we do without giving it any thought. Well, through recent research it has been shown that it is something we should give some thought to, as there is a correct way to sit.

1. Sit comfortably on the toilet seat.

2. Feet flat on the floor, if your feet do not reach a foot stool is needed.

3. Lean forwards with your elbow on your knees.

By sitting this way it empties the bladder more efficiently and lowers the residual (amount left in the bladder). Hovering or kangarooing the toilet seat has been shown to inhibit the bladder emptying and to empty as little as 1/3 of the volume.

Double voiding
When you feel that you have finished, do not hop up, sit up straight, lean back and count to 10 then lean forward again and you may find you empty out a little more urine.

How to improve your bladder function.

1.  Avoid bladder irritants

2. Avoid hovering

3. Avoid social voiding

4. Exercise pelvic floor muscles

5. Learn squatting

Bladder Irritants are:


Nutra Sweet


Concentrated urine



Atrophic vaginitis

Bladder Retraining

Bladder retraining is a simple and effective method that benefits those women who frequently have an urgent need to pass urine or who wet themselves in this situation. It is also helpful in cases of urinary frequency (going more than 7 times a day) and getting up more than once during the night. The purpose is to regain control of your bladder and enable it to hold a normal volume. The technique is simple, and if you think positively and adhere to the program excellent results can be expected.

The aim of bladder retraining

The aim of bladder retraining is to increase the capacity of the bladder until it can hold the normal amount of urine (300 – 500 ml.), enabling you to reduce visits to the toile to 5-7 times during the day and 0-1 time at night. This involves adopting good bladder habits and learning to suppress bladder contractions using a number of techniques. The program takes 3 months to significantly improve bladder function though some improvement may be noticed in a few weeks.

Good bladder habits

  • Drink 6-8 cups (2 litres) of fluids a day. More than this is excessive. Avoid drinking anything within 2 hours of going to bed.
  • Limit caffeine intake to 3 cups per day or switch to decaffeinated if the urgency or frequency is bad
  • Avoid ‘just in case’ visits to the toilet
  • No straining or ‘hovering’ over the toilet. Lean forwards when passing water with feet flat on the floor and elbows resting on knees
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Ensure good bowel habits all your life.

The training program

The technique involves increasing the amount of fluid the bladder can hold by gradually ‘stretching’ it. Instead of going to the toilet as soon as you get the urge to void, you should wait 5 minutes, each time. Use urge control techniques to help stave off this urge. At first this may be difficult and you may only initially be able to get the urge under control before going, but persist! Slowly increase the period of deferment from 5-10 minutes and then from 10-20 or 30 minutes. During the time you are putting off going to the toilet you are learning how to suppress bladder contractions. By filling the bladder with more urine, its walls are being stretched and so will hold more. You should only empty the bladder when it is full and you have done your ‘hold on’ exercise.

Urge control techniques

One of more of these techniques may be helpful in controlling the bladder when the urge is there, and allow voiding to be delayed. They all require practice and can also be used together.

1. Pelvic floor contraction
This helps prevent urine leakage when there is an urgent desire to void by suppressing the unwanted bladder contraction via a spinal cord reflex. It works best if applied early on in an unstable contraction.

2. Perineal Pressure
Achieved by sitting on a firm surface such as the arm of a chair or squatting with heel pressure.

3. Toe curling

4. Cross thighs and tighten buttocks

5. Sitting where possible
The bladder muscle cannot be quietened whilst moving or walking. You must either stand still or sit in order to gain control over the bladder. The above techniques must be applied before the urge reaches its peak in order for them to work.

6. Mental Distraction
Once you have quietened the bladder, stand carefully, keeping abdomen and chest loose, and walk to the toilet with the mind focussed on something else. Counting every step until sitting on the toilet or focussing on your breathing can be good distractions. Once your confidence in your ability to control the bladder has increase, attempt to defer for 5 minutes before going. Try to distract your mind by concentrating on something other than the toilet and emptying your bladder – anything will do eg. Mental arithmetic, the shopping list etc. As you improve, you will find you will be able to hold off for longer and longer periods.

The Townsville Hospital,
Urogynaecology Department
J. Hagerty, A. Corstiaans & Prof. A. Rane: Updated January 2006

The Pelvic Floor Muscles
The pelvic floor is a muscular sling which supports the abdomino-pelvic organs including the bladder in front, the uterus centrally and the lower bowel and rectum behind. These muscles function to provide good control of your vagina, urethra and anus, assisting in control of bladder and bowel function. They also help to withstand the pressure increases that occur when coughing, sneezing, lifting or straining, and help to increase sexual satisfaction for both partners.
Many factors contribute to weakening of the pelvic muscles’ the most important being childbirth, where the muscles, nerves and ligaments are directly traumatized, and the menopause when waning of ovarian function reduces hormone levels which normally serve to maintain muscular strength. Other factors including obesity, constipation and chronic cough also contribute to pelvic muscle weakness.
How to do Pelvic Muscle Exercise
A good way to learn the exercise is to pretend that you are lying on your back, with knees bent and wide apart. Imagine that someone is trying to stick a needle into the area between the vagina and anus. Try to pull this vaginal area away from the needle, back inside your body.

Don’t hold your breath and make sure that your bot-tom is relaxed. Another good way to learn the exercise is to imagine that you are trying to avoid passing wind. Think about the way you tighten (or con-tract) the muscles to keep the gas from escaping.
Getting the Maximum Benefit from Pelvic Muscle Exercise
1. Maximal effort needs to be put into each contraction
2. Try to contract only the pelvic muscles. If you feel your abdomen, thighs or buttocks tightening, relax, aim just for the pelvic muscles, and use a less intense muscle contraction.
3. Initially hold each contraction for 2 seconds, then for 4,6,8 & 20 seconds, as your muscles get stronger. Ten contractions in one “set” is ideal.
4. Rest for at least 10 seconds (longer if you need to) between each contraction, so that each one is as strong as you can make it.
The above set of exercises is best repeated 4 times a day. This can be easily achieved if you do them:
 When you finish going to the toilet
 During commercials on TV
 At the red lights when driving.
Avoid bearing down motions with pelvic muscle exercise:
The most serious mistake women make when doing pelvic muscle exercise is to strain down instead of drawing the muscles up and in. To keep from straining down when you do a pelvic muscle contraction: Exhale gently and keep your mouth open each time you tighten your muscles. Rest a hand lightly on your abdomen. If you feel your stomach pushing out against your hand, your are straining down.
Making a change in your personal health care pro-gram:
It is a challenge to work any new health habit into your everyday life. Everyone who is making a change like this has lapses. You may forget for several days at a time. Don’t get discouraged and think that you won’t be able to continue the exercise pro-gram. Just resume the program and remind yourself that every day that you do the exercises helps your muscles get into better shape.
Monitor your progress. You might want to keep a daily diary of whether or not you have had a leaking accident. Another way to check your progress is to see whether you can slow down or stop your urine stream when you are going to the bathroom. We recommend that you try this no more than once a week. As your pelvic muscles get stronger, you will find that you are able to stop the stream more quickly.
Finally, don’t expect an overnight cure. We know that daily pelvic muscle exercises will strengthen your muscles and eventually stop or greatly improve any leakage. But that takes time, maybe 12-16 weeks. Expect to exercise for at lease 3-4 weeks before you see evidence of improvement. This is a major commitment, but there is a good chance that the pro-gram will help you avoid surgery or medication that has side effects.



Treatment of female urinary incontinence – an annotated evaluation of non-surgical therapeutic options
By Hogne Sandvik

Female urinary incontinence (UI) is a condition with severe economic and psychosocial impact. I have studied the epidemiology of UI in the general female population and the prevailing management of UI by Norwegian general practitioners (GPs). Those who are interested in more details, may take a look at this synopsis. The main conclusions that may be drawn from these studies are that UI is very prevalent among adult women, mostly in the form of stress incontinence. At least 6% may be regarded as potential patients. Although complicated by methodological difficulties, studies of GPs’ management indicate that available therapeutic tools (described below) are not used to their full potential. A literature review demonstrates that the history is the most important diagnostic tool in general practice, and that the value of clinical investigations is poorly documented.

Pelvic floor exercises

In 1948 Arnold Kegel described pelvic floor exercises as a treatment option in stress incontinence.(1) The purpose of the exercises is to increase the muscle volume and to develop stronger reflex contractions following quick rise in intra- abdominal pressure.(2)

Lack of awareness of these muscles is common, and Kegel stressed the importance of learning how “good” rather than how “bad” the condition is. The patient is asked to draw up, instead of to bear down, and the physician should confirm the contractions by vaginal examination.(3) Many women do not know how to contract their pelvic floor muscles,(4) and a brief verbal explanation or an education pamphlet do not represent adequate preparation for a patient who is about to pursue an exercise programme.(5)

Usually, it is recommended that contractions should be sustained for 5-10 seconds followed by an equal period of relaxation.(2,6-9) Bø et al. demonstrated that a maximal contraction for 6-8 seconds followed by 3-4 rapid contractions were more effective than the usual exercise regimen of lower intensity. However, this intensive exercise group also benefitted from a weekly session with instructor in groups.(2) Development of muscular hypertrophy is a slow process and probably needs longer exercise periods with maximal tension.(2) Repeated series of contractions should be performed every day, but the total number of recommended contractions vary between studies. Bø et al. used 30 per day,(2) Jolleys 40,(10) Burgio et al. 50,(11) Lagro-Janssen et al. 50-100,(9) and Wells et al. 90-160.(12)

As the treatment protocols vary between studies, it is hardly surprising that the results also vary. Bø et al. reported that 60% of the intensive exercise group were cured or almost continent, 17% in the low intensity home exercise group. Only the intensive exercise group demonstrated significant objective improvements (pad test, maximum resting urethral closure pressure, pelvic floor muscular strength).(2) The initial results were maintained five years later.(13) In a larger study Hahn et al. reported that 71% were initially cured or improved. After 2-7 years 25% had undergone surgery, while 55% of the rest continued to be cured/improved. However, the frequency of training during the follow-up period was unsatisfactory in this study.(14)

Two controlled studies on the effect of pelvic floor exercises have been performed in general practice. Jolleys reported that 41% were cured and 46% improved by the exercise programme, while only 2% of controls were improved.(15) Lagro-Janssen reported that 85% were cured or improved, none in the control group.(9)

Who are most likely to benefit from pelvic floor exercises? Bø & Larsen found that responders were older, had a longer history of stress incontinence, a higher body mass index, and more severe incontinence, compared with nonresponders.(16) However, other studies have found best outcome in younger women(17) or in those with mild symptoms.(18)

To help women gain control over their pelvic floor muscles several devices have been constructed. Kegel developed the perineometer, a pneumatic vaginal rubber tube recording intravaginal pressure.(1) Burgio et al. demonstrated that visual feedback of bladder pressure, abdominal pressure, and sphincter activity was more effective than simple verbal performance feedback.(11) Such devices are too sophisticated, however, for routine use in general practice.

Vaginal cones, on the other hand, may prove to be an applicable aid to pelvic floor training in general practice. The cones are carried in the vagina for 15 minutes twice a day. They provide a powerful sensory feedback which makes the pelvic floor contract around the cone and retain it. As the pelvic floor muscles are strengthened, the weight of the cones is gradually increased.(19) In controlled studies cones have been at least as effective as routine pelvic floor exercises, and requiring less time to teach.(20,21)

Bladder training

Different scheduling regimens are often recommended for the treatment of uninhibited detrusor contractions. Timed voiding or habit training implies voiding on a fixed schedule, while in prompted voiding the patient is asked at regular intervals about the need to void.(6,7) These regimens are widely used with patients in nursing homes. For cognitively intact patients bladder training (bladder drill) has become the most popular treatment.(8,22-25)

The main characteristics of bladder training are patient education, scheduled voidings, and positive reinforcement.(26) Emphasis is placed on the brain’s control over lower urinary tract function.(27) Patients are requested to void only when scheduled, at progressively increasing intervals.(26,28) A urinary diary should be kept as an aid to treatment and as a motivating factor.(25,27-29) Close supervision and positive affirmation are essential for success, and the patient should be instructed in distraction and relaxation techniques.(27,28) A positive effect is often seen already after a week,(28) and unsuccessful training should not continue beyond 2-3 weeks.(27,28)

The treatment of bladder instability is very dependent on the placebo effect,(30) and uncontrolled studies should therefore be viewed with scepticism. Frewen treated 55 women with urge incontinence, and only one failed to respond. He considered bladder training a therapeutic test of idiopathic bladder instability. Failure to respond should raise suspicion of an organic disorder.(25) Two controlled studies on the management of female incontinence in general practice also included bladder training for urge incontinence, but the results were either not reported separately for this group,(31) or the treatment also included drugs.(15)

Jarvis & Millar did a randomized controlled trial of inpatient bladder drill with 60 women. After treatment 83% were continent and symptomfree, compared with 23% of controls.(32) In another randomized clinical trial with 123 women (aged 55-90) bladder training reduced the number of incontinent episodes by 57% (controls 14%) and the quantity of urine loss by 54% (controls increased 21%). The effect was maintained at six months follow-up, and there was no significant interaction between age group and treatment efficacy.(33)

The latter study also included women with stress incontinence, and the beneficial effect of bladder training was evident for this group, too.(33) This surprising finding has opposite parallels in other studies demonstrating that pelvic floor exercises and vaginal cones may also be effective in the treatment of urge incontinence.(34,35) It is hypothesized that pelvic floor muscle contraction may result in reduced bladder neck electrical conductivity.(35)


Both general practitioners and patients may seem bewildered with regard to the benefits and risks of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy.(36-38) The use of the less potent natural oestrogen oestriol for the treatment of postmenopausal urogenital complaints (including UI) should not be confused with contraceptive pills or perimenopausal hormone replacement therapy.(39,40) While oestriol is the most widely used low-potency oestrogen in Norway,(41) synthetic oestrogens are more popular in USA.(6,39)

Oestrogens may be administered orally, vaginally, or transdermally. In a double-blind study using conjugated oestrogen Hilton et al. found that vaginal administration was most effective in relieving incontinence symptoms, while side effects were more common with oral administration.(42) There are, however, reservations as to extrapolating such findings to the use of oestriol.(39) For some women convenience and compliance may favour the use of oral administration.

Most researchers who have developed and evaluated management programmes for female UI in primary care have included the use of oestrogen in postmenopausal women.(15,43-45) Guidelines and review papers also suggest that oestrogen may be beneficial for incontinent women.(6,8,22-24,46,47)

Some randomized double-blind placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated significant effect of oestrogen in stress incontinence.(42,48,49) Others have found good clinical effect in urge incontinence, but not in stress incontinence.(50,51) Benness et al. failed to demonstrate an effect even in urge incontinence, although the urgency symptom was improved.(52) In a meta-analysis Fantl et al. concluded that oestrogen therapy does have a beneficial subjective effect on incontinent postmenopausal women, with an average 46% improvement over placebo. Although still significant, the effect is smaller (26%) when only genuine stress incontinence is considered.(53)

Other drugs

Alpha-adrenergic agonists such as phenylpropanolamine may be beneficial in the treatment of stress incontinence, especially when combined with oestrogens.(42,48,49) A synergistic effect is believed to be due to increased muscular tone of the urethra (caused by phenylpropanolamine) and maturation of the urethral mucosa (caused by oestrogen).(49) In a randomized controlled trial involving 157 women (aged 55-90) the benefit of phenylpropanolamine was comparable to that produced by pelvic floor exercises.(12)

Anticholinergic drugs are recommended for the treatment of urge incontinence.(6,8,22-24,46) Terodiline, a drug with both anticholinergic and calcium antagonistic properties, was effective in reducing urge incontinence,(54) but was withdrawn from the market because of serious side effects.(55) In Norway only emepronium bromide remains as a registered drug for the treatment of urge incontinence. In a double-blind cross-over study comparing terodiline with emepronium bromide most patients preferred terodiline.(56) In several randomized double-blind studies emepronium bromide has failed to show significant effect over placebo.(30,57,58) However, there are other studies in which significant effect has been demonstrated.(59,60)

Tricyclic antidepressants, such as imipramine or doxepine, are also recommended for the treatment of urge incontinence.(6,8,22,23,46) These drugs may work by their anticholinergic effects as well as being alpha-stimulators.(61) In a small double-blind study imipramine tended to be more effective than placebo, but the power of the study was too weak to yield statistically significant results.(62) In a double-blind cross-over study with doxepine similar results were obtained, this time also statistically significant.(61)

Electrical stimulation

Electrical stimulation of the pelvic floor may be effective therapy both for stress incontinence and urge incontinence.(63-67) While urge incontinence is treated by short-term maximal stimulation,(66,67) stress incontinence is usually treated by long-term stimulation of lower intensity.(63,64)

Eriksen & Eik-Nes treated 55 stress incontinent women awaiting surgical repair. After therapy 68% were continent or had improved so much that the operation was cancelled. At two-year follow-up success was maintained in 56%.(63) In a randomized placebo-controlled trial electrical stimulation for stress incontinence proved superior to a sham device, both for objective and subjective parameters.(65) Another study showed electrical stimulation and pelvic floor exercises to be equally effective in the treatment of stress incontinence.(64)

Eriksen et al. also treated 48 women with urge incontinence. Clinical and urodynamic cures were obtained in 50% and a significant improvement in 33%. At one-year follow-up a persisting positive effect was found in 77%.(66) In a Swedish study 63% were cured or had improved significantly.(67) Both studies were done without control groups. So far, no controlled study has been published on the effect of electrical stimulation in urge incontinence.

Since 1992 the Norwegian National Insurance has reimbursed the cost of electrical stimulators for home treatment of female UI. An evaluation report was produced after two years. Approximately one third of the patients were cured or substantially improved. Treatment effect was not dependent on the doctor’s status (general practitioner v. specialist), but the effect correlated significantly with patient compliance. Ten per cent found the treatment difficult to accomplish.(68) Close follow-up and motivation for use seem to be necessary for successful electrical stimulation at home.(63,68) This aspect is probably illustrated by the lower success rates found in this unselected general survey(68) compared with the clinical trials.(63-67)


Climacteric. 2012 Jun;15(3):267-74.

The use of hormone therapy for the maintenance of urogynecological and sexual health post WHI.


Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology , IRCCS S. Matteo Foundation, University of Pavia , Italy ;


ABSTRACT Background The loss of estrogen at menopause and the gradual decline in testosterone with age are associated with urogenital atrophy and, as a result, urogenital tract symptoms, including lower urinary tract symptoms and dyspareunia. These symptoms will persist unless treated. Objective To review the prevalence of urogenital tract symptoms and sexual health problems associated with menopause and the role in the use of hormone therapy for the treatment of symptomatic women, with a specific focus on what has been learned since the first publication of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) estrogen and estrogen + progestin studies. Conclusion Studies support the use of local estrogen therapy, but not systemic estrogen therapy, for the treatment of urge urinary incontinence, overactive bladder and to reduce the number of urinary tract infections. The current evidence does not favor a beneficial effect on stress urinary incontinence. Local estrogen therapy is effective for the treatment of dyspareunia caused by vulvovaginal atrophy. Preliminary studies suggest a potential role for both intravaginal dehydroepiandrosterone and testosterone in the treatment of dyspareunia secondary to vulvovaginal atrophy, however, confirmatory studies are required before either therapy can be recommended. Post WHI, there is a need for medical practitioners to proactively raise the topic of urogynecological and sexual health in order to discuss the most suitable treatment option.


Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014 Mar;289(3):601-8. doi: 10.1007/s00404-013-3030-6. Epub 2013 Sep 22.

Triple therapy with Lactobacilli acidophili, estriol plus pelvic floor rehabilitation for symptoms of urogenital aging in postmenopausal women.



To assess the effects of the combination of pelvic floor rehabilitation, intravaginal estriol and Lactobacillus acidophli administration on stress urinary incontinence (SUI), urogenital atrophy and recurrent urinary tract infections in postmenopausal women.


136 postmenopausal women with urogenital aging symptoms were enrolled in this prospective randomized study. Patients: randomly divided into two groups and each group consisted of 68 women. Interventions: Subjects in the triple therapy (group I) received 1 intravaginal ovule containing 30 mcg estriol and Lactobacilli acidophili (50 mg lyophilisate containing at least 100 million live bacteria) such as once daily for 2 weeks and then two ovules once weekly for a total of 6 months as maintenance therapy plus pelvic floor rehabilitation. Subjects in the group II received one intravaginal estriol ovule (1 mg) plus pelvic floor rehabilitation in a similar regimen. Mean outcome measures: We evaluated urogenital symptomatology, urine cultures, colposcopic findings, urethral cytologic findings, urethral pressure profiles and urethrocystometry before, as well as after 6 months of treatment.


After therapy, the symptoms and signs of urogenital atrophy significantly improved in both groups. 45/59 (76.27 %) of the group I and 26/63 (41.27 %) of the group II referred a subjective improvement of their incontinence. In the patients treated by triple therapy with lactobacilli, estriol plus pelvic floor rehabilitation, we observed significant improvements of colposcopic findings, and there were statistically significant increases in mean maximum urethral pressure, in mean urethral closure pressure, as well as in the abdominal pressure transmission ratio to the proximal urethra.


Our results showed that triple therapy with L. acidophili, estriol plus pelvic floor rehabilitation was effective and should be considered as first-line treatment for symptoms of urogenital aging in postmenopausal women.

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