Is it just us or is life busier and faster paced than it’s ever been before? Whether you’re traveling and working long hours for your job, caring for the little munchkins you’ve got at home (motherhood is 24/7), or have taken up a new hobby in your “free” time, none of us have a lot of time to spare. As you’re racing around crossing things off your to do list, there’s nothing more frustrating than being disrupted every 30 to 60 minutes by the urge to head to the bathroom.
Well, we’ve got some good news for you. You actually can take steps to get your bladder on board with your schedule and get back to what really matters. Bladder training can help put urges and leaks, also known as incontinence, in their place.
What Is Bladder Training?
Bladder training is a technique that teaches your bladder to empty when you want it and not when you don’t, which can prevent leaks and emergencies. After all, your bladder should go along with your schedule and not the reverse, right?
Your bladder is shaped like a ball and is usually relaxed until it gets full. Then, it tenses up to say “Hey, I need to be emptied!” Sometimes, though, your bladder isn’t full when you feel the urge. According to doctors at Kaiser Permanente, 20% of women have bladders that start to do the tinkle dance before their bladder is full.
Scheduling bathroom visits and not running to the bathroom as soon as you need to go (aka urination delay) are two popular bladder training techniques that have helped many women control the urge. Practicing these techniques can help with leaks because they train your bladder to be patient and hold it for longer periods of time. Patience is a virtue, after all (or at least it is in bladders).
We’ll outline everything you need to know to get started.
Start Scheduling Your Bathroom Visits
First, you’ll want to start with a bladder diary to log each time you head to the restroom. Once you know how frequently you go to the bathroom, you can set goals for going longer in between trips.
For example, let’s say you normally go to the bathroom every 45 minutes. Your first step would be to schedule your bathroom visits 60 minutes apart. Once your bladder is comfortable with this amount of time, adjust your bathroom visits to be every hour and 15 minutes. Your goal is to keep increasing the time in between your bathroom trips until you’re going every 2-4 hours. Pretty straightforward, right?
Just like with any exercise routine, it’s important to listen to your body and take it slow. It’s best to increase the time in between bathroom trips by only 15 minutes at a time and to make sure that you are comfortable with your bathroom schedule for at least 3 days before you change your bladder training schedule again. Bladders don’t like surprises.
When You Shouldn’t Follow The Schedule
We know you’re busy and it might be tough to keep on such a rigid bladder training schedule. That’s alright, it just might take a bit longer to get your bladder on board with the new routine. If you get off schedule, don’t beat yourself up. Life’s too short for that. Just begin again where you left off the next day.
Plus, there are a few times when it’s okay to break with your bladder training schedule. The first is when you have plans that would prevent you from being able to go to the bathroom at your scheduled time. This could be a doctor’s appointment, long drive, movie, or an important dinner. If that’s the case, go to the bathroom beforehand and pick up your schedule from that point.
You also shouldn’t follow your bladder training schedule when you get into bed so you don’t disturb getting your zzz’s. If you feel the urge at night, it’s a-okay to get up and go to the bathroom. Once you’re more developed in your training, though, you can challenge yourself to go back to sleep when an urge wakes you up. No one likes to get out from under the cozy blankets at 2am.
What If You Feel The Urge?
What should you do when you feel the urge before your next scheduled bathroom trip?
Urination delay is the fancy term for not running to the bathroom every time you feel an urge. It can help with both leaks and urges.
When you suddenly feel like you have to run to the restroom, try holding it for 2-5 minutes. Once you master that, up the ante and aim for 5-10 minutes. Patience, bladder!
Teaching your bladder that it won’t necessarily be emptied as soon as you feel the urge can help with accidental leaks because it trains your bladder to hold it for longer periods of time.
At this point you may be thinking: “Easy for you to say! There’s no way I can possibly wait longer in between bathroom trips,” or “That’s all well and good until I get a crazy urge to go. Then I HAVE to get to the bathroom.”
The good news is that there are a few ways to distract your mind when you feel a sudden urge. One approach is to think about a very complicated task such as trying to remember the words to your favorite childhood song, make a list of the bills you have to pay, or play a word game on your phone.
If the distractions don’t work, think about something fun and relaxing such as a dream vacation, watching a fire burn, or watching the sunset. But maybe skip thinking about the dream vacation if it involves waterfalls or white water rapids.
Watch Out For Bladder Triggers
Lots of us have certain activities that trigger bladder urges and leaks. Everyone is a little different but common triggers are water related activities, arriving home, and sharp movements such as sitting up or dancing. Until your confidence increases in your bladder training, you may want to watch out for your triggers. You don’t need to make bladder training any harder on yourself.
Not sure what your triggers are? Keep a bladder diary to find out. A bladder diary can also help you track leaks and victories throughout the bladder training process. It is important to celebrate the victories after all.
Sometimes there may be times when your body is working against you and your grand bladder training plans. Being tired, nervous, sick, or near the beginning of your menstrual cycle are all times when your bladder control may be worse, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Wrapping Things Up
Living with leaks can be a burden. But with the right bladder training techniques, you might find that you can gain some control over your body. Try it out and let us know how it goes.
It’s important to remember to be patient, too. Patience is a virtue, as mom used to say. Bladder issues don’t form overnight and won’t disappear overnight either. It usually takes about 6-8 weeks for bladder training to fully take effect. If you have a few setbacks, keep yourself in a good frame of mind and remember that you can do this. You’ve got this. And we’ve got you.
While you’re working on your bladder, make sure to carry bladder leak pads just in case. Get pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered straight to your door from Lily Bird.
Has bladder training worked for you? Share your story in the comments!
By Mariya Bentz