About Incontinence

Why learn about bladder control?

Good bladder control sounds simple. Just hold on until you get to the bathroom. All men and women need to understand their bladder control system. It sounds simple. But good bladder control takes teamwork from many organs, muscles, and nerves in your body.

What are the parts of the bladder control system?

Most of your bladder control system lies inside the pelvis. Stand with your hands on your hips. The bones under your hands are the pelvic bones. Your pelvis is shaped like a big bowl. Your hands lie on the rim of the bowl. The bottom of the bowl, between your legs, is muscle.

Four important body systems work inside the pelvic bowl:

1. The bladder control system
  • The brain sends nerve signals telling muscles to hold urine or let it out.
  • The bladder is a muscle shaped like a balloon. It holds urine.
  • The urethra (yoo-REE-thrah) is a tube from the bladder that drains urine out of the body.
  • Two sphincter (SFINK-tur) muscles help the urethra open and close.
2. The female system
  • The womb, or uterus (YOO-ter-us), is an organ where your monthly periods come from and where unborn babies develop.
  • The vagina (vuh-JY-nuh) is a canal where blood from your periods leaves the body and where babies come out.
3. The digestive system
  • The rectum (REK-tum) is an area where bowel movements go from the intestine.
  • The anus (AY-nus) is the opening where bowel movements leave your body.
4. The nervous system
  • Nerves send messages from your brain to your bladder and from your bladder to your brain.
  • Muscles open and close to release or to hold urine.

What do bladder control muscles do?

Happy people close

Three sets of muscles control urine. One set is the bladder muscle itself. The second set is sphincter muscles that open and close the urethra. The third set is the muscles at the bottom of the pelvic bowl.

Healthy sphincter muscles can keep the urethra closed. They are called the pelvic floor muscles. They support the uterus, rectum, and bladder. Sometimes pelvic muscles get stretched and weak. When this happens, organs in the pelvic bowl sag. Then women have trouble holding their urine. Luckily, exercising the pelvic muscles can often make them strong again. Sometimes nerves are damaged by childbirth or other events. The damaged nerves signal the bladder muscles to squeeze urine out at the wrong times. Medical treatment can help women with this problem.

Bladder control means you urinate only when you want to. For good bladder control, all parts of your system must work together:

  • Pelvic muscles must hold up the bladder and urethra.
  • Sphincter muscles must open and shut the urethra.
  • Nerves must control the muscles of the bladder and pelvic floor.

Points to Remember

  • Good bladder control results from many body systems working together.
  • Three muscle systems control urine flow: the bladder muscle, sphincter muscles, and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Many things can cause poor bladder control. The good news is that many medical treatments can help.
Pelvic floor muscles used for bladder control will grow stronger with daily exercise.
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