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Lifestyle & Behavioral Changes

By making lifestyle and behavioral changes you can help control pelvic floor disorder symptoms.


For many women, a healthy diet and fit lifestyle really make a difference in controlling their PFD symptoms. 

Lose Weight if You are Overweight
Weight loss can help improve urine leakage along with pelvic muscle strengthening and other behavioral changes. If you are overweight, as little as a 5 to 10% drop of pounds will reduce weekly incontinence episodes by more than half. In addition to stressing the pelvic floor, obesity affects the normal functioning of the nerves and muscles in your genital tract. This further increases your risk for pelvic floor disorders.

Manage Fluid Intake
The specific recommendation for fluid intake relates to your specific symptoms. For urinary incontinence, not overdoing the fluids can translate to less trips to the bathroom. Also, restricting drinking after dinner can help reduce the number of trips to the bathroom at night. For women struggling with constipation, increasing fluids is often recommended.

Be Diet Savvy
Women with UI find it helpful to reduce bladder irritants, including caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and some energy drinks, and artificial sweeteners. These foods may cause bladder muscle spasms, which can make you suddenly feel like they have to urinate.

Eat plenty of fiber daily to avoid constipation. You may also need to use a stool softener if you continue to struggle with constipation to avoid excessive straining with bowel movements.

Adjust Physical Activity
Regular physical activity helps keep bowel movements normal. Being active also helps with maintaining a normal body weight, decreasing your risk for UI. However, high-intensity exercises (e.g., CrossFit) can put pressure on your pelvic floor and increase your risk for incontinence problems.

If You Smoke, Quit Now
The risk for pelvic floor disorders is doubles for women who smoke.

Bladder_Training_Page_1Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises (Kegels)

Numerous studies have shown that learning how to control and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles helps women reduce or eliminate urine leakage. Kegel exercises help with leakage caused by physical activities and also with urgency. Women with mild to moderate symptoms experience the greatest improvement. Like any other form of exercise, improvement is a reflection of good exercise technique and dedication to doing the exercises regularly. Specially trained physical therapists can help those having difficulty learning these exercises.

Bladder Retraining

Sometimes your brain doesn’t get the message that their bladder is full until it’s too late. Urinating on a schedule may decrease leakage episodes. The goal of this exercise is to regain bladder control by emptying before the sudden strong urge comes.

This means going to the bathroom on a set schedule. You or your doctor can decide where to begin after reviewing a completed bladder diary. Typically, women begin by urinating every hour or 90 minutes during the day, whether you feel like you need to or not. Then you extend the interval between urination every few days as long as leaking accidents are avoided. A comfortable goal to reach is urinating every 2 ½ to 3 hours. The bladder retraining period can take several months and requires motivation. Being consistent is key for effective bladder retraining.

Pantiliners, Pads, Briefs, and Diapers

Some women use pantiliners, pads, briefs, or diapers to help with urinary or fecal leakage. These products may be a short-term solution as you and your doctor work on the long-term fix. Or, they may be part of your long-term treatment plan. Wearing an incontinence pad, for example, during a high-risk activity such as exercise can increase confidence. Or, for fecal incontinence, going out with an adult disposable brief as a just-in-case measure may offer your psyche some comfort.

Today, there are very discrete options, including women’s undergarments with lacy panties and tummy control. There is also a special garment that makes it possible for women with fecal incontinence to swim. In addition to a variety of styles and colors, incontinence liners, pads, briefs, and diapers come in a range of sizes and absorbencies.

Ask your doctor about options. Many women find they simply reach for a sanitary pad or napkin. However, menstruation products are not designed to handle urine or watery stools. Incontinence products help keep the moisture away from your body and control odor. However, even with incontinence products, it is important to practice good hygiene:

  • Change the liner, pad, brief, or diaper when you are wet.
  • Let your doctor know if you notice any rashes.

Sometimes insurance pays for these products. Ask you doctor’s if insurance will pay for part or all of the cost.


Depending upon the extent of your urinary or fecal leakage, your doctor may recommend a variety of products, such as:

Sanitary Pads and Napkins

  • Not designed to handle urine.
  • If you find you are reaching for sanitary pads or napkins as a just-in-case measure, it is time to talk with your doctor about urine leakage.


  • Typically, thin and very discreet, disposable liner.
  • Can help keep you dry and offer confidence. For example, if you have SUI, consider using during high risk activities such as exercise or during an allergy season that is causing you to sneeze a lot.

Incontinence Pads

  • Disposable and reusable products, some specially designed for women.
  • Usually have adhesive strip holds pap to the inside of your underwear.
  • Typically hold about 8 ounces of urine.
  • Absorbent layer keeps wetness away from your skin. Moisture barrier on the other side, protects furniture and mattresses from urine leaks.
  • Some incontinence pads also block odor.

Incontinence Briefs

  • Look like underwear—even come in different colors and some with lace.
  • Usually has waterproof liner and built-in pad.
  • Some brands offer day and night styles.
  • Can hold about 10 ounces of fluid. Nighttime briefs may absorb even more fluid.
  • Some are washable and reusable, others disposable.
  • Keeps moisture away from skin and helps to control odor.

Plastic Pants                

  • Worn over underwear to help protect furniture and mattresses.
  • Typically used for mild to moderate leaks.

Adult Diapers

  • Different styles and colors available.
  • Generally disposable.
  • Some pull on and off just like the plastic pants. Others look like traditional diapers with tape on each side.