Have you ever woken up to find yourself in a pool of your own urine? Most of us have. For some people, the feeling is all too common because they are suffering from incontinence – medical word for unexpected leaks.

The condition can be caused by physical problems or it may be linked to mental health issues such as stress or anxiety. Whatever the cause, you’re not alone. One in three women experiences leakage at some point in her life, according to figures from Incontinence Action.

After accidents on holiday and stressful hospital appointments, here are 18 tips that can help you avoid unexpected leaks.


1. Don’t drink too much alcohol

It doesn’t just ruin your night out – drinking heavily is linked with incontinence. The more you drink, the more your bladder is likely to spasm, making it harder for you to control urination.


2. Pee when you need to

Trying holding on against the urge to go can put pressure on your bladder, causing stress incontinence (involuntary leaks that occur when lifting, sneezing or laughing) and overflow incontinence (when small amounts of urine leak out all the time).


3. Wear suitable underwear

Super absorbent pants are great at catching leaks, especially overnight, but they may make it hard for your bladder to ‘breathe’ properly. Some doctors recommend cutting back on absorbency by wearing plain cotton knickers in between periods of high absorbency protection.


4. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables

Leafy greens can help clean your bladder by flushing out acidic waste products that cause infections. Cut back on bran, which is thought to make incontinence worse in some women, instead choosing high-fiber cereals, whole wheat pasta brown rice, and whole foods.

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5. Watch what you eat

Spicy curries are tasty but the chili could irritate your bladder if you’re prone to cystitis (inflammation or infection of the urinary tract). Spicy foods may also give you heartburn, which can trigger leaks in some people.


6. Take hot baths

Heat soothes swollen tissues, reducing the risk of leakage. in a warm bath for around 15 minutes, several times a day.


7. Watch what you drink

The golden rule is to have six to eight glasses of fluid every day. If your bladder isn’t used to holding that amount, it might not be ready for the extra fluid if you suddenly drink lots. That means more leaks.


8. Eat sensibly

Skipping meals and snacking between them could also force your body into overdrive when you eat properly again. Skipping could lead to stomach cramps, which can irritate your bladder and trigger leaks.


9. Try pelvic floor exercises

Squeezing and drawing in your pelvic muscles will strengthen them and help give you better control over your bladder so less urine escapes at any one time. Some people find Kegel exercises helpful, but they aren’t right for everyone: speak to your GP first if you want to try them.


10. Try cranberry juice

It’s rich in compounds that kill bacteria and help keep the urinary tract infections at bay. Research suggests cranberry juice can ease mild symptoms of cystitis, such as frequent and urgent toilet trips.


11. Seek medical advice

You should see your doctor if you’re struggling with incontinence or it’s getting worse over time. Your doctor may prescribe medication, bladder training exercises; recommend pelvic floor exercises; offer surgery or refer you to a specialist continence service for further tests and treatment.


12. Forget about sex

Having sex will put pressure on your bladder and could make you leak. If you’re hoping to conceive, see your doctor about treatments that will help.


13. Turn to medication

Don’t suffer in silence because there are several prescription medications for both stress incontinence and overflow incontinence. Speak to your GP about medication that can help with all sorts of bladder problems including infections, detrusor overactivity (squeezing when the bladder shouldn’t be squeezing), lack of coordination between the muscles in the bladder wall, poor storage due to a poorly functioning bladder muscle or unstable sphincter.


14. Stop smoking

Women who smoke are more likely to experience incontinence than non-smokers. This may be because smoking reduces blood flow to the pelvic area, which could affect the nervous signals reaching your bladder. It also makes you more likely to have urinary tract infections, which are thought to cause some cases of incontinence.


15. Drink less caffeine

There isn’t evidence to show caffeine causes bladder weakness, but cutting down could help if you overdo it on the coffees and need the loo more often than usual.


16. Eat more fiber

Some women find increasing their intake of fiber helps ease incontinence. That’s because a high-fiber diet makes your stools softer, which is likely to make them easier to pass. It also adds bulk to stool, helping you stay ‘regular’. But all this extra pooing can irritate an already sensitive bladder, so don’t increase your fiber intake any further without talking to your doctor first.


17. Soothe with tea

Drinking two or three cups of tea a day could reduce your risk of bladder infections, which are one of the main causes of stress incontinence. The tannins in black tea make urine more acidic, potentially helping to wipe out some bacteria that can cause bladder infections. Black and green teas also contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which help keep cell damage at bay.


18. Find out more

Talk with your partner about what’s happening and do some research together into incontinence symptoms and treatments that could help with stress or overflow incontinence (or both).



Incontinence can happen to any one of us at any time. If you stay informed, take precautions and prevent it from getting worse, you’ll make your life easier and improve your health down the line.