What is Bladder Training?

Brendan McGuigan

Bladder training is a series of techniques used to help control and minimize the impact of urinary incontinence. Although bladder training does not necessarily work for all types of urinary incontinence, it can have a great deal of effect on many types, especially those caused by stress or urge. In the past few years, techniques for bladder training have improved greatly, and a number of excellent resources now exist.

A diary should be kept throughout the process of bladder training.
A diary should be kept throughout the process of bladder training.

Urinary incontinence is a general term used to describe any involuntary leakage of urine, and can be caused from any number of things. These might include medical conditions, stress, an overfull bladder, or bedwetting. Some people only experience urinary incontinence when their body undergoes certain physical stresses, such as laughing or sneezing, while others may experience it at any time, sometimes with no apparent common thread.

Bladder training aims to retrain the bladder schedule.
Bladder training aims to retrain the bladder schedule.

The concept behind bladder training is fairly simple: one retrains the bladder schedule so that the bladder is able to retain urine for longer periods of time, and reduce feelings of urgency. This is done over a few months, and it is important to remain patient during the course of retraining, sticking with the regimen long enough for results to show. It is a good idea to keep a diary throughout the process of bladder training, as well, to see progress and to have a jumping off point for speaking with a health care professional about your procedure.

Some people experience urinary incontinence when they undergo physical stress, such as sneezing.
Some people experience urinary incontinence when they undergo physical stress, such as sneezing.

To begin bladder training, every day when you wake up you will want to empty your bladder completely. Take as much time as is needed to get the bladder as empty as possible, as often overflow can occur when the bladder is simply not emptied all the way. You will then wait a set time, which you can either determine yourself or reach with the consultation of a health care professional, until emptying your bladder again. To begin with, this may be a short time frame, such as fifteen or twenty minutes. When you go to the bathroom at these set time frames, make sure to completely empty your bladder again, even if you don’t feel like you have to urinate.

If during the course of your day you feel the urge to urinate at a time not dictated by your bladder training schedule, use breathing techniques and Kegel exercises to relax the body and hold back the urine until the urge passes. If the urge doesn’t pass, hold it as you can, then go to the bathroom, relieve yourself, and get right back on the schedule. Once you are able to easily wait for your set interval between visits to the toilet, you can lengthen the interval by another fifteen or twenty minutes.

Continue this bladder training regimen until a comfortable time is met between urges. Generally, this can take anywhere from four to twenty weeks. While keeping a schedule, you can also do muscle exercises like Kegel exercises to help strengthen your ability to hold back urges. It’s also important to consult with a health care professional throughout the process, to make sure that the urinary incontinence is not caused by a more severe underlying medical condition.

Bladder training can be used to minimize the impact of urinary incontinence.
Bladder training can be used to minimize the impact of urinary incontinence.

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Discussion Comments


I’m a mid-forties woman and I’ve just started having trouble with little bouts of leaking (I can’t bring myself to call it incontinence!). Mostly it happens when I sneeze or cough or laugh hard. I’m not ready to have bladder problems, so I’m wondering if anyone like me has tried this sort of training to prevent incontinence?? Did it work?


@cruze- My heart goes out to you! My son was a bed-wetter too. We tried several bladder training programs but the one that worked involved using a schedule.

We set alarm clocks to wake him up at the same times every night so he would go to the bathroom. Eventually we got rid of the alarms and he just woke up at those same times on his own.

To this day (twenty years later) he says he still wakes up every night at two and four am! But it worked!


My son was a bed wetter until he was about twelve, so I have first-hand experience with bladder control training. We used a different method than the one described. It involved my son increasing his fluids, but also delaying urination for as long as he could. The belief was that he would enlarge his bladder, allowing him to ‘hold it’ until morning.

He did this for a month. Every time he had to go, he would urinate in a measuring cup. It must have worked, because he went from urinating 2 or 3 ounces to several.

Unfortunately, it didn’t help the bed-wetting one iota, he just went more!

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