Sure, being active is great, but there’s one particular part of our body we definitely don’t want to be too active – our bladder.

An estimated 12 per cent of Australians have a condition called overactive bladder, which can cause much upheaval and distress in a person’s life.
What is overactive bladder?
Your bladder is like a muscular balloon, which contracts to empty its contents when full. Overactive bladders contract involuntarily and unexpectedly, often due to problems with the neural connection to the bladder, or as the result of an obstruction. Sometimes there are no known causes.

People with overactive bladders are known to have less work productivity, less sexual satisfaction, higher rates of depression and poorer sleep.

Affected males have more erectile dysfunction and postmenopausal women with overactive bladders have a higher risk of falling and sustaining bone fractures than other postmenopausal women.

The main symptoms of overactive bladder may include:

  1. Having to urinate urgently, regardless of whether you’ve been drinking or not, or whether you’ve just been to the toilet.
  2. Having to urinate more than about eight times over a 24-hour period.
  3. Waking up more than two times overnight to urinate.
  4. Leaking or wetting yourself before you reach the toilet on time.

Preventing the condition may be difficult, but symptoms can be reduced by adopting a few lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes that can help are:

  1. Regulate your fluid intake. Regulate your fluid intake so you’re drinking the correct volume for your body and level of activity, at the right times (a continence professional can guide you as to these amounts). Too much fluid can overfill your bladder and too little fluid can concentrate the urine, which irritates the bladder. Your fluid intake should also be scheduled so you drink well in advance of appointments or outings.
  2. Limit alcohol and caffeine-based drinks. Alcohol, caffeine-based drinks and fizzy drinks are known to irritate the bladder, which exacerbates symptoms of overactive bladder. Alcohol also has a diuretic effect, which can cause more frequent urination.
  3. Avoid constipation. Constipation can trigger or worsen symptoms of overactive bladder. Not only is the bladder’s physical space in the abdomen restricted as a result of constipation, straining on the toilet can weaken the pelvic floor. Ensure you take every measure to avoid constipation, such as eating a fibre-rich diet, exercising regularly and responding immediately to your body’s signal to defecate.
  4. Keep your weight in the healthy range. There is evidence that losing weight decreases the severity and frequency of symptoms of overactive bladder.

Effective, drug-free treatment programs

There are two non-invasive and drug-free treatment programs, pelvic floor training and bladder training, that are effective in alleviating the symptoms of overactive bladder (after your doctor has ruled out possible causes such as prolapse, spinal damage, enlarged prostate and certain medications).

Pelvic floor training

Your continence professional can teach you how to strengthen and train your pelvic floor muscles so you are better able to control urinary leakage and lessen the impact of involuntary contractions of the bladder.

Bladder training

Your continence professional can also teach you how to train your bladder so it holds more urine and empties less often by scheduling longer toileting breaks and using distraction techniques to “hold on” for longer periods.

For further advice, or to locate your nearest continence professional, phone the free National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66), which is staffed by continence health nurses 8am to 8pm weekdays. Go here for more information.

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  • A great informative article, thanks for sharing.


  • A few weeks ago I listened to a recording about this subject.
    While we should avoid drinking at night, we were also told that by the time we feel thirsty enough to want a drink we have already started to dehydrate.


  • I suffer from number 3 on the list, waking more then once through the night to wee. But none if the others. Do I have an over active bladder or something else?


  • I will let mum know!This is interesting! Thank you for sharing this!


  • We were taught to go more regular and stop and start urine flow

    • yes those are the right muscles to be using


  • Interesting information. I think I need to drink more.


  • Valuable information, thanks for sharing!


  • Hmm.. Apparently I don’t have any of those symptoms.. So better keep up with those pelvic floor exercises!


  • I am 47, I had reflux when a child and was one of the first children to be operated on in South Australia when I was 5, unfortunately it was cutting edge technology and they cut nerves to my bladder which meant it did not grow and I have suffered bladder and kidney infections ever since, I take antibiotics all the time but they change frequently due to resistance and It is not uncommon to have 2 or 3 different ones in a month, I did have a twin pregnancy but kept going into prem labour due to infections, My daughter inherited the same condition and she has lost one kidney as her operation failed due to doctor error, I have now got a totally unrelated neurological condition that causes incontinence so I have gone from bad to worse, but I cannot emphasise enough that bladder problems can be treated and there is no embarrassment in talking to your doctor about them. please if you have problems, seek advice.


  • it s great


  • I was diagnose with a chronic bladder condition from 17 told I had the bladder of a seventy five year old women went through pulsation therapy siscoscraphy and many other things and was told after children it would be worse although cross fingers till now three children on it seem to have eased alot

    • Wow, you must be an expert now on urinary issues!. Hope it continues to improve. All the best.


  • Sometimes I have no idea how I manage to go a whole day without going to wee…

    • Really! Ouch, I’d be in agony!

      • It’s not a good idea to hold on for too long consistently. By doing so you can overstretch the bladder, which may lead to problems down the track. Typically we should go to the toilet to urinate about 6 to 7 times over a 24-hour period. Find the time to go when you get the urge. It’ll be better in the long run.


  • I think recent research has shown that we do not need to drink as much water as we have been led to believe in the past. In fact, we should only drink when thirsty.

    I also think pelvic floor exercises are a must as a woman who has had children. Honestly, it also has the added effect of improving the sexy times too. There are some awesome products out there for helping with the situation if you need them too.

    • You are absolutely right about the volume of water we should drink. The recommendation, which Kidney Health Australia has put a position statement on, is that we drink enough to satisfy you thirst (with exceptions for people with diabetes or who are elderly), and not some arbitrary amount.
      And you’re also right about pelvic floor exercises. They are great for improving sexual function as well as for improving or curing incontinence.


  • started having problem with incontinence,taking cranberry tablets had to resort to wearing like kimbies pull-ons for adults !! embarrassing and stopped me staying at my son’s for fear might wet the bed .That is why got nappies waking myself to go to the loo, doing pelvic floor exercises too….Seems at times in deep sleep can occur, but got help from incontinence society and hopefully improving sometimes. Good to read article and know it is not just me.. all the best to all the rest

    • I’m glad to hear you got help from the Continence Foundation of Australia. Keep monitoring it and doing all the pelvic floor exercises and bladder training. All the best.
      Cheers, Maria


  • I have had a problem since I had a bladder infection and had no prior symptoms. I had no pain or discomfort at all.
    One morning I felt tired, had a high temperature and continuous vomitting during the afternoon which caused dehydration as I couldn’t retain even sips of water. A lot of tests revealed the infection. They also checked for Bladder Cancer which fortunately was negative


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