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Department of Health and Human Serviceswww.hhs.gov
Agency for Healthcare Research Qualitywww.ahrq.gov

Taking Control: Non-surgical Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence in Women

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How is stress incontinence treated?

Image still from the video 'What are Kegel exercises? (For stress incontinence)'

What are Kegel exercises?
(For stress incontinence)
(5-minute video)

Watch the video for more information about Kegel exercises.
(View video in a new window)

Stress UI can be treated with Kegel exercises, medical devices, or medicines. You may need to try several treatments before finding what works best for you.

Select each treatment in the table below to learn more about it. The table lists the benefits and side effects of each treatment.

Select the buttons under the benefits and side effects of each treatment to learn more. The higher the number of women out of 10 that saw a result, the more likely you are to see the same result. These are general estimates. Every person may respond differently.

This tabel contains a list of exercises, medical devices and medicines that are used to treat stress incontinence.

Benefits Side Effects
Exercises Stopped
leaking
Had less
leaking
Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) or Kegel exercises

Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT), or Kegel exercises

Also called Kegel exercises, PFMT involves squeezing and releasing the muscles that you use to stop urinating. Watch the video below titled "What are Kegel exercises?" for more information.


3 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. 3 icons are a darker blue than the other 7.

About 3 out of 10 women stopped leaking using this treatment.

4 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. 4 icons are a darker blue than the other 6.

About 4 out of 10 women had less leaking using this treatment.

Not known

Side effects not known, but most researchers think there are few if any.

PFMT with biofeedback

PFMT with biofeedback

PFMT is sometimes done with biofeedback to help teach women how to do the exercises. Biofeedback uses electronic recorders or other instruments and sometimes written diaries to record contractions of your pelvic floor muscles or bladder muscles.




4 to 5 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. 4 and a half icons are a darker blue than the other 5 and a half.

4 to 5 out of 10 women stopped leaking using this treatment.

4 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. 4 icons are a darker blue than the other 6.

About 4 out of 10 women had less leaking using this treatment.

  Not known

Side effects not known, but most researchers think there are few if any.

Medical Devices
Vaginal weights and inserts
Illustration of anatomy of the pelvis indicating how vaginal weights are situated in the vagina.

Vaginal weights or inserts

Small vaginal weights about the size and shape of a tampon can be placed in your vagina. You hold the weight inside your vagina for several minutes at a time to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Vaginal inserts, also known as pessaries, can be inserted into your vagina to help reposition and support your bladder and urethra (the tube that urine travels through to leave your body). Pessaries come in different shapes that you and your doctor can choose from to get the best fit for you.

Not known

There is not enough research to know if women using vaginal weights and inserts stopped leaking.

Not known

There is not enough research to know if women using vaginal weights and inserts had less leaking.

  Not known

There is not enough research to know if vaginal weights or inserts cause side effects.

Electrical stimulation
Illustration of anatomy of the pelvis indicating how an electrical stimulation device is situated in the vagina.

Electrical stimulation

A soft, silicone rubber tube about the size of a tampon is inserted into the vagina. It is attached to a battery-operated unit that sends a small amount of electricity into the tube and the muscles surrounding it. This treatment can be done at home after a therapist or nurse explains how to use it and sets a level that tightens the muscles but is still comfortable.

2 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. 2 icons are a darker blue than the other 8.

About 2 out of 10 women stopped leaking using this treatment.

2 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. 2 icons are a darker blue than the other 8.

About 2 out of 10 women had less leaking using this treatment.

  Not known

Side effects not known, but most researchers think there are few if any.

Magnetic stimulation
Illustration of a woman reading a book, sitting next a magnetic stimulation device.

Magnetic stimulation

Coils are placed inside or under a chair. You sit down on the chair, and an electric current is sent into the coils. This electric current creates a magnetic field that tenses and relaxes the muscles of your pelvis. This treatment must be done in a doctor's office or clinic. You can remain clothed during the treatment.

Not known

Magnetic stimulation did not appear to help women stop leaking, but more research could change this conclusion.

3 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. 3 icons are a darker blue than the other 7.

About 3 out of 10 women had less leaking using this treatment.

  Not known

Side effects not known, but most researchers think there are few if any.

Medicines
Topical estrogen

Topical estrogen

Estrogen is a female hormone. Your body makes less of this hormone as you age. Topical estrogen is used as skin patches or as a cream, tablet, or ring that you place in your vagina. Topical estrogen is sold under many different brand names.




Not known

There is not enough research to know if women using topical estrogen stopped leaking.

Not known

There is not enough research to know if women using topical estrogen had less leaking.

  Not known

There is not enough research to know if using topical estrogen for UI causes side effects.

Duloxetine (Cymbalta®)

Duloxetine (Cymbalta®)

This medicine helps people with depression, anxiety, and chronic muscle pain and tiredness, but some doctors may use it for stress incontinence as well. Duloxetine is not currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for stress incontinence.




  Not known

There is not enough research to know how many women stopped leaking while taking this medicine.

Less than 1 in 10
10 icons represent 10 women. Half of 1 icon is a darker blue than the other 8.

Less than 1 out of 10 women had less leaking while taking this medicine.

  Less than 1 to 2 in 10

About 2 out of 10 women had nausea while taking this medicine.

About 1 out of 10 women had dry mouth while taking this medicine.

About one half to 1 out of 10 women had constipation, extreme sleepiness, inability to fall or stay asleep, and dizziness while taking this medicine.

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