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The bladder and bladder retraining

How a healthy bladder works and how bladder retraining can reverse urinary incontinence.

The bladder is a bag surrounded by muscle in the centre of your body below the stomach.

Urine, produced by the kidneys, is stored in the bladder. When you go to the toilet the bladder contracts, the bladder outlet relaxes, and urine passes. Your brain controls your bladder, sending messages when to urinate.

A healthy bladder:

  • empties four to seven times a day, or every three to four hours;
  • can hold up to a pint, about 500ml, of urine though will start sending signals to urinate at about half this;
  • gives you time to find a toilet;
  • completely empties when you urinate;
  • does not leak urine.

With age, or after illness, or as a result of childbirth, the bladder may work less effficiently, resulting in urinary incontinence.

The messages sent between the bladder and the brain may be affected by stroke or damage to the nervous system.  Childbirth, surgery or hormonal changes may damage or weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder outlet.

Self help treatment can often reverse and cure bladder problems.

Bladder retraining

Bladder retraining helps to combat the urgency and frequency of urinating.

Keep a record over a three day period of how often you urinate. The bladder training should have as its goal the gradual extending of the period between visits to the toilet. So, if you urinate every two hours, try to wait two and a half hours, then three, increasing the period to four hours.

If you urinate ten times a day, aim for nine times the next day, eight times the next day and then seven times the day after.Continue trying to reduce the number of times you urinate, aiming to achieve between four and seven visits to the toilet within a 24 period.

Another bladder training exercise is the gradual increase of time between feeling the urge to urinate and actually passing urine.

Tightening the pelvic floor muscles will help you to ‘hang on’ for longer periods.

Bladder retraining takes will power, and can take months to achieve. The end result is that you only need to urinate every three to four hours, and being able to wait until it is convenient.

Keep a record of your progress. This may be slow, but if you keep it up, bladder retraining stands a good chance of success.

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