Sensitive bladder: Your guide to living life to the full with incontinence

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Bladder sensitivity
Did you know that as many as one in three women over the age of 18 suffer from bladder sensitivity? Yet for some reason, the topic of incontinence is one we talk about very little.

Whether it's due to embarrassment or just not knowing enough about a sensitive bladder, realising you're not alone, knowing what the causes are as well as finding some solutions will make a massive difference to your daily life.

When you're out shopping with friends, running around after the kids or enjoying a day out with your family, the last thing you should be worrying about is bladder sensitivity. Our guide covers everything you need to know about incontinence, so all you need to worry about it living life to the full!

What is sensitive bladder?

Sensitive bladder is the unintentional loss of urine. Leaks occur when pelvic floor muscles and nerves are weakened.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms depend on which type of bladder sensitivity you have.

1. If you leak urine when your bladder is under pressure, such as when you laugh or cough, it's probably stress incontinence. Other triggers might be sneezing, exercise or lifting something heavy.

2. A sudden urge to go to the loo, often resulting in the emptying of the bladder, is known as urge incontinence. This is generally caused by a miscommunication between the nerves of the bladder and the brain.

3. If you are affected by both these symptoms, it's called mixed incontinence.

What are the causes?

There are many reasons for sensitive bladder, but the most common ones are:

Pregnancy and childbirth

Having a baby can weaken the pelvic floor muscles or the sphincter muscle that usually keeps your urethra closed, meaning you have less control over your bladder.


A menopause-related sensitive bladder is due to a drop in oestrogen levels. As a result, many women find they need to go to the loo more often and may experience sudden urges.

Being overweight

This can increase pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles.

Strenuous sports

Leaks can occur during exercise as a result of putting excessive demands on your bladder.

Sensitive bladder solutions

There's no reason to let bladder sensitivity get in the way of living life to the full. You don't have to adapt your life to avoid little leaks, all you need are some simple lifestyle changes and the right protection. So whether you're donning that little black dress for an evening with your partner, or heading out for some fun with your girlfriends, you can feel completely confident doing all the things you want to do.

Chat to your doctor

We recommend having a chat to your doctor to help you find a solution that's right for you, but here are some little lifestyle changes that can make a big difference

Don't stop drinking

Although it's tempting, don't reduce the amount you drink as this can aggravate your bladder by making your urine more concentrated. Keep a healthy balance by drinking when your body tells you you're thirsty. We know it's tricky, but keep an eye on your intake of caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks, as these are diuretics, which make you go to the toilet more.

Perfect your pelvic floor technique

It's never too late (or too early!) to start pelvic floor exercises, you just need to keep up the exercises to make the effects last. By practicing at least three times a day, these exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and give you more bladder control. You can do them while waiting for a bus, shopping in the supermarket or watching telly and no-one will know what you're doing!

Not sure where your pelvic floor muscles are? Have a go at stopping a pee mid-flow and you'll feel them. To start a pelvic floor exercise, simply squeeze these muscles 10 to 15 times (not while you're going to the loo though). Remember not to hold your breath or to tighten your stomach muscles while you're doing them though.

Set a schedule

Believe it or not, but your bladder is trainable. Keeping to a daily schedule when it comes to toilet visits will help you train yourself. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Sensitive bladder in pregnancy

If you've developed bladder sensitivity during pregnancy, there's no need to worry. There are things you can do to help manage the condition so that it doesn't get in the way of all the things you love to do.

1. Pelvic floor exercises will really help strengthen the muscles that help control your bladder. Try doing them a few times a day when you're sitting down at work or watching TV - getting into the habit now will make it easier to remember to do them when you're a busy mum. Plus, they'll help your body prepare for labour.

2. Avoid strenuous activity like running and high-impact aerobics – walking, swimming, yoga or cycling are gentler on your pelvic floor and won't put any additional pressure on your bladder.

3. Keep hydrated by drinking water. It may be tricky, but caffeine, fizzy drinks and artificial sweeteners can play havoc with a sensitive bladder, so try limiting your intake.

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4. Try to avoid constipation during pregnancy, so that your full bowels don't put added pressure on your bladder.

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