Updated 29 January 2018

10 tips to manage incontinence at work

Incontinence can be embarrassing and uncomfortable — here are 10 tips on how to deal with it at work.

Urinary incontinence involves the involuntary leaking of urine. While incontinence itself isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom of another condition and can affect everyone.

Urinary incontinence affects about 5% of the population, with 8% of females and 3% of males affected respectively. It's more common in old age and in debilitated patients, but some factors such as stress can cause younger people to suffer from incontinence.

The question is, how do you deal with incontinence while at work? Whether you have a job where you spend the day standing, or whether you are in and out of meetings all day, incontinence can be uncomfortable and embarrassing at work.

We investigated a couple of ways on how to deal with urinary incontinence in the workplace.

1.  Pack an emergency kit

Having the comfort of clean clothes will make you feel less stressed out about urinary incontinence at the office. Also pack a spare set of absorbent underwear and a plastic bag if you have an emergency. While you won’t necessarily use these items, being prepared will put your mind at ease.

woman carrying tog bag

2.  Wear dark clothing

If you are worried about a visible leak, stick to dark colours and thicker material. Choose absorbent materials like cotton. 

woman dressing for work

3. Do regular pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises are effective for women who suffer from mild urinary incontinence. Clench and unclench your pelvic floor muscles to strengthen them.

kegel exercises

4. Go to the bathroom regularly

Schedule your bathroom breaks between meetings or conference calls, and take your time when you are there.

woman in bathroom stall

5. Make it easier

Don’t wear clothing with fiddly, complicated zippers. Choose skirts or pants with elasticated bands to help you save time.

woman trying on pants

6. Disclose

Talk to a trusted colleague, line manager or HR staff member about your condition.

two women talking

7. Go easy on the coffee

Caffeine is a diuretic which can stimulate urine production and irritate the bladder. If you are worried about incontinence at work, limit your amount of coffee per day.  Skip the coffee altogether if you know you have a meeting.

woman drinking coffee in office

8. Locate the bathroom

Not working in the comfort of your office? Locating the bathroom in an unknown place such as a conference venue, or client meeting, will put your mind at ease.

bathroom sign

9. Don’t skip the water

Your first reaction would be to avoid drinking water. That can actually have an adverse effect since not drinking enough water can irritate your bladder. However, don’t drink too much water.

woman drinking water at work

10. Talk to your doctor

Consult your doctor about possible medication and treatment to keep incontinence under control.

woman talking to doctor

Image credits: iStock


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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