Doctors often recommend that women do Kegel exercises to strengthen muscles around the urethra, vagina and rectum. These can be done either sitting up or lying down.
- Keep your knees together and relax your back, stomach and thigh muscles.
- Pretend you are urinating and then try to stop the flow of "urine." The muscle that allows you to do this is the perineal muscle.
- Keep your knees together, squeeze your perineal muscle and hold the squeeze for 10 seconds.
- Then relax the muscle for a few seconds.
- Do this 10 to 20 times in a row.
- Work up to three sessions a day.
- Don't hold your breath during exercise. Take deep, slow breaths.
- Be patient. Results are not immediate. It takes six to 12 weeks after starting a Kegel exercise routine to notice an improvement in bladder control.
- Don't skip your exercises. For your bladder muscles to get stronger, you have to do this exercise several times a day, every day. Some women find it useful to exercise around the same time each day, such as before getting out of bed in the morning and before going to sleep at night.
- Stay toned. Once you have reached your goal of better bladder control, you can keep your pelvic muscle toned by continuing your Kegel exercise routine.
- Other treatment options for women may include:
Electrical stimulation to make your pelvic muscles stronger.
- Drugs that help control your bladder. Be sure to always bring all of your medications with you when you visit your doctor. Ask your doctor about the long-term effects of any drugs that are prescribed.
- The insertion of a ring, called a pessary, that a doctor inserts into the vagina. The pressure usually helps reduce leakage. Pessary users should be checked regularly for infections.
- Implants are substances that are injected into the tissue around the urethra. The goal is to add bulk and close the urethra. This method is not always successful. Injections must be repeated over time because the body absorbs the implanted substance.
- In some cases, your doctor may recommend you use a catheter. A catheter is a tube that is inserted through the urethra to the bladder. You can then drain your urine into the toilet or a bag that is strapped to your leg. You insert the catheter and remove it as soon as the bladder is emptied.
- Surgery is considered the last option. The most common surgery involves lifting the bladder if it has dropped down toward the vagina.
Help is available. Talk to your doctor if you are having problems.
Health A to Z: Treating incontinence. Accessed August 6, 2008. Available at
National Association for Continence. What is incontinence? Accessed August 6, 2008. Available at
National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearing House. Bladder control: What men need to know. Accessed August 6, 2008. Available at
National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearing House. What I need to know about bladder control for women. Accessed August 6, 2008. Available at
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Kegel exercises for urinary incontinence. Accessed August 6, 2008. Available at