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While menopause may be unavoidable, the symptoms you experience don’t have to be – at least they don’t have to be as severe as they otherwise might. That’s because there’s a whole range of treatment options that can help you better manage the change and address the bladder and bowel health issues that arise from it.

The first thing you’ll want to remember is that bladder leaks during menopause are not normal, and other incontinence problems are not things that simply have to be endured. If you find that you’re having issues with incontinence during your menopause years, don’t just shrug your shoulders and assume that this is par for the course. Instead, take action now – it’s far better than suffering for years, especially with a condition that is eminently treatable. Below are some of the things you can do if you find that incontinence is an issue for you during this time

Watch your diet – Avoid foods that can irritate your bladder, like caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, spicy foods, and acidic foods. Remember that what triggers irritation in one person may be different for another, so it pays to keep track of your diet to help identify those foods that affect you the most. Also remember to drink a sufficient amount of water – neither too much nor too little, generally around 6 to 8 cups a day (8 ounces each).

Pelvic floor strengthening – Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises are some of the very best things you can do to keep your pelvic floor in top shape. To learn how you can do them on your own, click here to visit our pelvic floor health center and sign up for our free 6-week guide to strengthen your pelvic floor.

Physical therapy – For even more directed support when it comes to working your pelvic floor, we always recommend reaching out to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor function – they’re experts at helping you develop an exercise plan that generates the results you’re looking for.

Posture – Great posture can help your pelvic floor perform optimally. Remember to hold yourself straight with your shoulders back and your abdominal muscles firm when you sit or stand – that helps align your body in a way that supports your pelvic floor muscles. And don’t forget that when you sit on the toilet, you should lean forward with your elbows on your thighs towards your knees. Use a small stool to elevate your feet, too, giving you a more natural posture that makes for easier bowel movements.

Weight management – Keeping a healthy weight means that there’s less of you for your pelvic floor to support – that means less strain on the muscles that you count on for healthy bladder and bowel function.

Improve sleep – Getting a good night’s rest during menopause can be particularly difficult – hormonal changes can lead to insomnia, and bladder issues can have you peeing when you’d rather be zzz’ing. Try relaxation techniques like guided meditation before bedtime, try to avoid screen time at least a half hour before bed, and if you do find yourself scrolling on your phone in the evening, make sure you’ve set your screen to night mode.

Hormone therapy – Since the loss of estrogen and other hormones is the central cause of so many menopausal symptoms, it only makes sense that treatment with hormones can bring relief. They should be used with caution and consideration, though, because estrogen supplementation and hormones have been linked to the development of some forms of breast cancer and an increased risk of heart problems. If they’re something you’re interested in trying, you’ll find a number of options to choose from: Patches, creams, gels and pills.

Other medications – Beyond hormones, there are a number of medications that are used either to treat the symptoms of menopause or incontinence or both. These include some that are specifically designed to treat overactive bladder and urge incontinence by calming your bladder muscles, and others that treat stress incontinence by tightening certain muscles. Antidepressants may be beneficial for women who are experiencing depression symptoms, over-the-counter vaginal creams may help with dryness and painful intercourse, and a prescription drug called gabapentin can be useful for dealing with hot flashes.

There are even more options than these, so check with your doctor and make sure to discuss all your symptoms to see if there are pharmaceutical options that might work for you.

Pessaries – A pessary is a small device that’s inserted into the vagina to help hold the bladder in place, and many women find that they can be particularly helpful when it comes to issues like stress urinary incontinence.

Third line therapies – There are a couple of minimally invasive medical procedures that have proven successful for hundreds of thousands of women seeking to control bladder dysfunction. Their names can be intimidating – Sacral Neruomodulation and Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation – but the way they work is straightforward. In both cases, nerves that are involved with bladder function are gently stimulated, and this helps you regain control. Click here to learn more about these procedures and see if you might be a good candidate.

Surgery – If your incontinence has become unmanageable and other options have failed to work, surgery may be worth considering. There are many surgical procedures for both urinary and fecal incontinence, and what’s right for you will depend on what type of incontinence you’re dealing with. Make sure to talk with your doctor about what to expect – surgery doesn’t treat every condition out there, and it’s possible you can still experience some symptoms following the procedure, particularly if you suffer with multiple forms of incontinence at the same time.