For many people with urinary incontinence, the following self-help tips and lifestyle changes are enough to relieve symptoms.
Do daily pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises can be effective at reducing leaks, but it's important to do them properly. Find out how to do pelvic floor exercises.
You may have to do pelvic floor exercises for 3 months before you see any benefits.
If you smoke, you put yourself at risk of incontinence, because coughing puts strain on your pelvic floor muscles.
Find out about NHS Smokefree support services, or call the Smokefree National Helpline to speak to a trained adviser on 0300 123 1044 from Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am to 4pm.
Find out more about how to stop smoking.
Do the right exercises
High-impact exercise and sit-ups put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and can increase leaks.
To strengthen your pelvic floor to relieve symptoms, replace high-impact exercise, such as jogging and aerobics, with strengthening exercise, such as pilates.
Pilates strengthens your core muscles, which is beneficial for stress incontinence.
Lifting puts strain on your pelvic floor muscles, so avoid it whenever you can.
When you do need to lift something, such as picking up children or shopping bags, tighten your pelvic floor muscles before and during the lift.
Lose excess weight
Being overweight can weaken your pelvic floor muscles and cause incontinence because of the pressure of fatty tissue on your bladder.
Your symptoms may improve, and could go away completely, if you lose any excess weight.
Use the healthy weight calculator to check you're a healthy weight for your height.
Find out more about how to lose weight.
Treat constipation promptly
Straining to poo weakens your pelvic floor muscles and makes urinary incontinence worse.
Never ignore the urge to poo. If you have constipation, it may help to change your diet and lifestyle.
Eating more fibre and exercising more can help. It may also help if you change the way you sit and use your muscles to empty your bowels. A specialist physiotherapist can advise you on this.
Find out more about how to have a healthy diet.
Cut down on caffeine
Caffeine irritates the bladder and can make incontinence worse.
Coffee has the biggest effect, so stop drinking it or switch to decaffeinated coffee.
Fizzy drinks, tea, green tea, energy drinks and hot chocolate also contain caffeine, so cut down on these too and replace them with water and herbal or fruit teas.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you urinate more often. Cutting down may help incontinence symptoms.
Find out more about how to cut down on alcohol.
Drink plenty of water
Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day (but no more) unless your doctor advises you otherwise.
Many people with urinary incontinence avoid drinking fluids, as they feel it causes more problems. However, limiting your fluid intake makes incontinence worse, because it reduces your bladder's capacity.
Not drinking enough fluid can also cause constipation or make it worse.
Find out which are the healthiest drinks.
Eat the right foods
Avoid spicy and acidic foods, such as curries and citrus fruits, as they can irritate the bladder and make leaks and other incontinence symptoms worse.
Page last reviewed: 07 November 2019
Next review due: 07 November 2022