Do you frequently have the urge to urinate, even though you don't really have to go? Feel like you spend too much time running to the restroom? Not only can living with symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC) be frustrating, it can take a toll on your quality and enjoyment of life. Thankfully, there are things you can do to improve your IC—and perhaps make it through lunch with friends without making a beeline for the bathroom. The key? Bladder retraining.
How it works
As soon as you feel bladder pain and/or the urge to urinate, most likely you stop what you're doing and use the restroom to relieve the feeling. But often, your bladder might not actually be full. Unfortunately, your body becomes used to frequent urination, and this disruptive pattern can continue even if the painful symptoms of IC are resolved.
Bladder retraining helps establish a more normal urination schedule. You learn how to urinate at set times—not just when the urge occurs—to slowly extend the time between bathroom breaks. This increases the amount of urine your bladder will hold, which reduces the frequency of your urges.
Are you a good candidate?
Before embarking on a bladder retraining program, talk with your doctor. Retraining can help those who have urinary frequency or urgency problems, but it shouldn't be done if you still struggle with bladder pain. Your doctor can tell you if you're ready for bladder retraining and help develop a program for you to follow. If your symptoms are fairly mild and your pain is resolved, you can try bladder retraining on your own.
Pay attention to how often you use the restroom. To help, write it down. Then, set a schedule for urinating that's slightly longer than your typical habits. For example, if you tend to urinate every 30 minutes, try to wait 15 minutes longer before voiding. Maintain the 45-minute schedule as best as possible for about four weeks. That's how long it usually takes to successfully and consistently increase your wait time. Once this is accomplished, push back your schedule another 10 or 15 minutes.
Try to stick to your plan as much as possible, but keep in mind that some intervals between voiding may be a bit longer and some a bit shorter. Trying to relax or distract yourself when the urge first occurs can help it go away. But if your bladder becomes painful, go ahead and use the restroom. And don't worry about bladder retraining at night. The progress you make in the daytime will help during sleep, too.
Celebrate small victories
On average, it takes about three months to retrain your bladder to a more normal urinary frequency. Keeping a diary of your bladder habits can help you track your progress and successes along the way. Remember, these small steps can lead to greater control over your bathroom habits—and your life—in the long term.