Non-surgical treatments and exercises to help with incontinence issues and maintain better bladder health

Women who suffer from urinary incontinence often feel isolated and embarrassed by their condition. They fear like the way out is difficult and complicated. However, the Royal Australasian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand recommended that non-surgical treatments should be the first line of treatments for urinary incontinence.

Group of women laughing

Here are some examples of non-surgical treatments for urinary incontinence treatment and prevention.

Pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercise is meant to strengthen the pelvic floor through tightening and lifting the muscles at regular and repetitive intervals. Some help and advice from a health professional such as a physiotherapist who is knowledgeable about the pelvic floor dysfunction, or a specialist continence nurse can help women who suffer from continence with proper instructions and maximise the outcome of the exercises.

Continence pessary

A pessary is mainly used for stress incontinence issues. It’s a small device made from either vinyl, silicone, or latex often shaped like a diaphragm (donut shape) or a cube, which is inserted into the vagina to provide some support to the pelvic organs. It compresses the urethra against the pubic bone and lifts the neck of the bladder.  Pessaries may also be offered for pelvic organ prolapse.

Lifestyle changes

Eating healthy food, which ultimately avoids constipation and reducing weight, also stopping smoking, and doing lower impact exercises will help improve urinary incontinence issues. Reducing caffeine, sweet drinks and alcohol also reduce the severity of urgency, frequency syndromes.  These lifestyle changes will take time and effort to start showing an impact. In general, regular low impact exercise, and healthy fresh foods contribute to overall good health. Women who seek more help should talk to a dietician or a general practitioner to help make the right lifestyle changes.   Water intake may need to be adjusted up or down depending upon an individual’s habits. A urine output of 4 litres over 24 hours needs a different approach to 500mls over the same time span.  One size does not fit all.

Bladder training

The aim of bladder training is to restore the normal function of the bladder. If bladder training is done well, the patient will be able to decrease the number of times they go to the toilet, increase the amount of urine that gets passed each time, and hold on to the urine longer or put off emptying the bladder. Bladder training includes putting perineal/vaginal pressure by sitting on a rolled towel, crossing legs, sitting on the arm of a chair, self-distraction, walking slowly and emphasizing on heel-toe walking.

If none of these non-surgical treatments work, pharmacotherapy may be the next step. When the problem is more severe, an accurate evaluation with urodynamic studies may be required to determine the best treatment.

Primary care physicians, including general practitioners, continence clinicians, physiotherapists and continence nurse advisors are the people who are first in line to provide help and advice to women who suffer from incontinence issues.

The University of Melbourne – Mobile Learning Unit have worked together with Prof. Helen O’Connell, Australia’s first female urologist, to create an online resource on female urinary incontinence that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Created with an outstanding multi-disciplinary team, the course is there to support and upskill primary healthcare workers to support women suffering from urinary incontinence issues, starting from non-surgical and surgical treatments.

Course Information

More Information

Mobile Learning Unit, University of Melbourne


  • Urinary Incontinence