Incontinence can usually be stopped or improved by treatments including pelvic floor muscle exercises, bladder training, medicines and surgery. Exercising and eating/drinking to prevent constipation are also important.
How the problem affects you depends on what's causing it. So, it's important to get help from your healthcare provider or continence adviser to find out what's causing it and what can be done to treat it.
Treatment for women
If you have ongoing problems with urinary incontinence, even after trying the self-care tips described above, your doctor may prescribe an anticholinergic medicine, eg, oxybutynin or solifenacin for you. These act on your bladder muscles to help improve bladder control.
Surgical treatment options
If non-surgical treatment options haven't worked, a surgical option may be considered. Think about what you would like to ask your surgeon before you see them. Finding a credentialed surgeon with experience in these procedures is essential.
Not everyone will undergo the same procedure. Your doctor or surgeon may recommend a specific procedure for clinical reasons. Talk to your doctor or surgeon about which procedure is most suitable for you. They will consider all relevant issues, including your previous surgical history and your wishes.
Surgical treatment can be further divided into procedures that use surgical mesh(external link) and those that don't. The table below describes procedures not involving mesh that are currently recommended by the Ministry of Health in New Zealand.
Type of surgery
An operation that's carried out through open or keyhole surgery through your abdomen (belly). Permanent synthetic sutures (stitches) are used to lift your vagina and support your urethra (the pipe through which your bladder empties).
Natural or biological tissue sling
Open surgery through your abdomen to lift your urethra using a sling from your own abdominal wall.
Type of slings that are used include:
- natural sling, eg, fascia
- biological sling, eg, biological material of animal origin.
Urethral bulking agents
A vaginal operation where a synthetic ‘bulking’ material is injected in or around your urethra to improve the seal. This material may be permanent or absorbed by your body.
Procedures involving surgical mesh implants: The term ‘surgical mesh’ refers to a permanent synthetic implant that's made from a non-absorbable polypropylene (plastic) material. It's known by multiple names including tape, sling, TVT, patch, ribbon, graft or hammock. From August 2023 all surgical mesh procedures have been paused while steps are taken to minimise harm.
Treatment for men
Read about treatment of bladder problems caused by prostate enlargement in men.