Preventing incontinence

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Many factors can increase your risk for incontinence. The good news is that some risk factors can be avoided by adjusting your behaviour and deliberately making certain lifestyle choices. That being said, it’s not possible to avoid all the potential contributing factors (e.g. age, family history and gender).

It’s also important to note that, while a number of steps can be taken to avoid incontinence, there’s no guarantee that you won’t develop the condition.

The following steps can, however, reduce your chances of becoming incontinent:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Stop drinking alcohol and caffeinated beverages excessively.
  • Do regular pelvic floor exercises.
  • Do bladder training, especially if you experience urgency and frequency. This will help to prevent the progression to urinary incontinence.
  • Try to maintain normal bowel habits. Remember that chronic diarrhoea or constipation can lead to faecal incontinence, if not properly managed. If you suffer from either of these conditions, seek proper medical advice and treatment.
  • Discuss the choice between vaginal and caesarean delivery with your doctor. Having multiple vaginal deliveries weakens the pelvic floor, which can contribute to stress incontinence. Note, however, that caesarean section doesn’t necessarily prevent incontinence. The potentially serious, life-threatening complications of caesarean section must also be weighed up against the pros and cons of vaginal delivery.

Read more:
What is incontinence?

Reviewed by Dr Dakalo Muavha, Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, MBChB DipObs FCOG Mmed, University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital. May 2018.

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