What Is Bladder Training?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What is bladder training, and does it work to control incontinence?

Expert Answer

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging.net. She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

Bladder training (also called bladder retraining) is a method of learning to regain a measure of control over one's bladder to minimize incontinence. It's usually used by people who have urge incontinence, the type associated with a strong and sudden need to urinate that happens before one can make it safely to a bathroom.

Here's how to do it. Some physical therapists say it's learning to think of "mind over bladder."

Start by going to the toilet and trying to pass urine every two hours while you're awake. You don't have to get up during the night.

You must try to void whether you feel the need or not. You must try to void even if you've just been incontinent.

If you get an urge to go to the bathroom before your scheduled time:

  • Stop -- don't run to the bathroom.

  • Stand still or sit down if you can.

  • Relax. Take a deep breath and let the air out slowly.

  • Concentrate on making the urge decrease or even go away, any way you can (imagine the pressure becoming less and less).

  • When you feel in control of your bladder, walk slowly to the bathroom, and then go.

Keep up this schedule until you can go two days without an accident. Then increase the time between scheduled trips to the toilet by one hour. When you can go two days without an accident, extend the time between trips again.

Keep this up until you can go four hours between trips to the toilet. This would be considered a normal schedule. Or wait until you're comfortable. This usually takes several weeks.

Don't get discouraged. Bladder retraining takes time and effort, but it's an effective way to overcome incontinence without medication or surgery.