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Bladder control problems (urinary incontinence)

Mate tōngāmimi

Urinary incontinence is when you've lost bladder control, so you accidentally leak wee (urine).

Urinary incontinence can range from occasionally leaking a few drops of wee to leaking enough to affect your daily activities.

Types of urinary incontinence include:

You may have more than one type. For example, you might have both stress and urge incontinence.

Causes of urinary incontinence

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence is caused by damage to your pelvic floor muscles, ligaments and tissues. It can be due to:

Urge incontinence

Urge incontinence is caused by overactivity of your bladder muscles, which may be due to:

Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence happens when your bladder doesn't empty completely. This can be due an obstruction affecting the urine flow such as:

Continuous incontinence

Continuous incontinence can be caused by:

Treating urinary incontinence with non-surgical methods

Non-surgical treatment for urinary incontinence includes lifestyle changes, pelvic floor muscle training, bladder retraining and medication.

Lifestyle changes

Pelvic floor muscle training

Pelvic floor exercises can help you retrain and strengthen weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles.

Bladder retraining

Bladder retraining aims to:


If your symptoms continue, medications may help treat your bladder control problems. The medications aim to reduce your urge to wee (urinate) as well as how often you wee.

Medications for bladder control problems include solifenacin and if you're a post-menopausal woman, vaginal estrogen.

Review all your medications with your general practice team or pharmacist. Some medications can make incontinence worse and there may be alternatives.

Treating urinary incontinence with surgical methods

If non-surgical treatments do not help, your general practice team may refer you to the hospital to see a specialist.

The specialist may consider Botox treatment. There are also several types of surgery that might help treat bladder control problems. For information on Botox treatment and surgery for bladder control problems, see Urinary incontinence surgery and procedures from the United Kingdom's NHS.

The Ministry of Health document Considering surgical mesh to treat stress urinary incontinence gives you information about treating stress urinary incontinence with surgery including mesh and other options.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2023.


See also:

Bedwetting & daytime wetting in children

Page reference: 264391

Review key: HIURS-53047