Coronavirus affects people in different ways and can put people at risk of developing bladder and / or bowel problems. These issues can occur due to repeated coughing, the direct effect of the virus on the body and post virus deconditioning.
Some of the issues people may discover with their bladder and bowels
- Stress incontinence: a urine leak when you cough, sneeze, make a sudden movement or exert yourself
- Urge incontinence: a urine leak with a strong or sudden urge to pass urine
- Bladder frequency: needing to pass urine more than 8 times a day
- Nocturia: waking up more than twice a night to pass urine (more than you used to)
- Bowel incontinence: the inability to hold wind or stools
- Constipation: difficulty passing stools, straining to empty or opening your bowels less than 3 times a week.
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse (women): a sensation of heaviness dragging as though something is falling down within the vagina
Top tips for improving your bladder and bowel health
- Drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day (2 litres), this should be evenly spaced throughout the day so you are drinking a glass or cup every couple of hours.
- Try to be sure you limit fizzy drinks and caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee as these can irritate the bladder.
- It is normal to empty your bladder 5 – 8 times per day if you are drinking the recommended 1.5 – 2 litres of fluid. If you are having difficulty getting to the toilet on time you could try to calm the urge to a manageable level before walking to the toilet. To do this it can help to stay still, take slow calm breathes and distract your mind. Once the strong urge has calmed a little you can then begin your walk to the toilet.
- Both men and women should exercise their pelvic floor muscles daily. The pelvic floor muscles help to support the bladder and bowel and increase our ability to control the passage of urine and / or faeces. To learn how to do this see the pelvic floor exercises section below.
- If you need to cough, sneeze or exert yourself you should try to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as you do this. This will help to support the bladder and bowel.
- It is important to eat 3 meals a day (see nutrition to help recovery from Covid-19 page on this website). Eating regularly can help to keep your bowels moving and reduce constipation.
- If you feel your bladder is not emptying fully it can help to gently rock forwards and backwards after you have finished passing to see if this encourages a second flow. Do not strain to empty your bladder. If you are having difficulty emptying your bladder please contact your GP.
- Ensure you are eating enough fibre – see links below.
- Make sure you are also drinking enough (1.5 to 2 litres of fluid per day).
- Do not strain. Sit fully on the toilet with your feet and knees apart. Raising your feet up on a step / stool and leaning forward slightly can help (see picture below)
- Keep your tummy relaxed, take some deep breaths into your tummy and breathe out slowly – making an ‘ahhhhhhhhh’ sound as your breathe out can help.
- For women it may help to support the perineum (area between the back passage and vagina) when emptying your bowels. To do this place your hand on this area and apply some light pressure as you empty your bowels.
Pelvic floor exercises
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that stretch from your tailbone (behind) to your pubic bone at the front forming a bowl shape. They support your pelvic organs and help to control the passing of urine and faeces. By completing pelvic floor exercises regularly we can improve their strength, endurance and co-ordination to help us control our bladder and bowel better.
Please see documents below for how to complete your pelvic floor exercises.
What to do if I am still having problems?
If you are unable to empty your bladder for more than 8 hours despite drinking fluids as usual please call 111.
If you follow the above advice but are still having bladder or bowel issues 6 weeks after recovering from covid-19 then please contact your GP to discuss this further.
- Fibre advice
- Advice for improving your bowel function
- Pelvic health physiotherapy – how we can help your bladder and bowels