If you don't find what you're looking for in the FAQs please try the main bladder and bowel problems sections. Or if you'd like to discuss a particular problem or need further advice please call the helpline on 0845 345 0165 to speak to a specialist nurse .
Bladder Control FAQs
I have a weak bladder does your website provide information on this?
Yes. Weak bladder is also known as Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) and usually occurs when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise. Women are predominantly affected by weak bladder but men can experience it too. Young women and teenagers can also experience SUI, we have a factsheet called Love Your Gusset which explains more about this.
To find out more about SUI or weak bladder please visit our Bladder Conditions and Symptoms section. You'll find a drop down menu at the bottom of the page listing bladder problems affecting both women and men, as well as other specific conditions, including those specific to either men or women. Don't forget to read the general information on this page too, as this may help your understanding of bladder problems.
I have to go to the toilet a lot in the day, what does this mean?
Frequent visits to the toilet can be caused by an Overactive Bladder (OAB). OAB includes other symptoms such as frequency, urgency and urge incontinence, nocturia and nocturnal enuresis. To read more about Overactive Bladder please visit our Bladder Conditions and Symptoms section. You will find a drop down menu at the bottom of the page listing bladder problems affecting both women and men, as well as other specific conditions, including those specific to either men or women. Do not forget to read the general information on this page too, as this may help your understanding of bladder problems.
I've heard of double voiding, what is this and how can it help me?
This is where after finishing on the toilet you sit and rock your pelvis back and forwards which helps to empty the bladder more fully. This is particularly helpful for people who have repeated urinary tract infections, have suffered bladder retention before, have been found to have a large post void residual volume of urine after a bladder scan, MS sufferers and people who have a vaginal wall prolapse and find that they don't feel like they empty their bladder fully.
What are the pelvic floor muscles and where can I find information about them?
Both men and women have pelvic floor muscles which consist of layers of muscle and ligaments that stretch from the pubic bone to the end of the backbone (coccix) and from side to side. Firm, supportive pelvic floor muscles help support the bladder, womb and bowel, and to close the bladder outlet and back passage.
If these muscles become weakened, loss of urine, wind and faeces may occur. There are exercises which you can do to help strengthen these muscles called pelvic floor muscle exercises. To find out more about the pelvic floor, please visit our Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise section.
We also have factsheets for men and women on pelvic floor muscles exercises. These factsheets are part of the online registered supporters package. If you would like to find out how you can become a registered supporter and get access to online resources including the exercises sheets please visit our Support Us section.
Pelvic floor exercises v's toning aids, how do they differ?
Toning aids can only be fully effective if there is only a very weak pelvic floor squeeze, they are a passive form of treatment for a very weak pelvic floor, you need to find 1/2 hour a day to lie still and use the machine and have a good level of dexterity to insert the electrode. However, If you can feel some sort of gentle lift when you do a pelvic floor squeeze then doing a disciplined set of pelvic floor exercises ( ideally with proper instruction from a trained professionalas the toners are not always the correct treatment hence a full assessment is best) is by far the best treatment and you can do them anywhere anytime!
Please visit our Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise Section for more information.
Are there any treatments that can assist me with my overactive bladder (OAB)?
There are many treatments available that may help improve your symptoms of OAB.
These range from simple things you can do yourself (with or without support from a continence advisor) to medication and surgery. Surgery is always a final option and will not normally be considered until other more conservative methods have been tried. You should always seek the advice of a Health Professional first before you try any treatment.
To find out more about possible treatments please visit our OAB Bladder Treatments section.
I have an OAB so need to go to the toilet a lot, should I reduce my daily fluid intake to prevent this?
Drinking enough fluids is essential to keep a healthy bladder and bowel functioning properly. You should never reduce the amount of fluids you drink unless recommended by your GP. When you are not drinking enough, the bladder gets used to holding smaller amounts of urine and can become sensitive, especially if your urine becomes more concentrated as then it is more likely to irritate your bladder.
Try to drink at least 1.5-2 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid each day, remembering that many foods already contain plenty of water in them.
For more information on fluids please visit our Lifestyle, Fluids and Diet section.
Bowel Control FAQs
I sometimes cannot hold on long enough to make it to a toilet for a bowel movement, what does this mean?
If you are unable to control your bowel movements, you could have faecal incontinence; this could be a daily problem or just happen from time to time. The most common cause of faecal incontinence is damage to one or both of the anal sphincter muscles. You should discuss this with a specialist health professional to determine the cause of your problem and consider any appropriate treatments.
If you would like to find out more about faecal incontinence and some of the possible triggers please visit our Bowel Conditions and Symptoms section.
Which pads are suitable for faecal incontinence?
Pads and pants for faecal incontinence will have a different absorbency level to those used for urinary incontinence. B&BF works with some of the suppliers of faecal incontinence pads and pants, and you can find more information in our Bowel Conditions and Symptoms section.
Please take a look to see if there is anything suitable for your needs, you can visit a companies website by following the links should you wish to find out more.
I suffer from constipation quite often, are there any 'self-help' tips that I can try before I use conventional methods.
There are many triggers that can cause the symptoms of constipation such as a lack of fibre in your diet, lack of fluids and lack of exercise. As a general rule, eating more high-fibre foods such as wholegrain bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals, fruit and vegetables can prevent constipation.
Also, drink at least 1.5-2 litres (6-8 glasses) of water based drinks per day, this will keep the stools moist and easier to pass. Try and be more active as this will help muscle contractions that move waste matter through the gut. Walking is an excellent activity as you can do it anywhere at any time. Visit our page on lifestyle, fluids and diet for more information.
A method of tracking what may be affecting your bowels is by keeping a bowel diary. This records what you've eaten and drank including medication which may be causing the constipation. If you experience constipation frequently it may be beneficial to take your completed bowel diary to your GP to discuss the results. For more information on Bowel Diary's please visit Bowel Retraining Section.
Some people with neurological problems such as Parkinson's disease or Multiple Sclerosis are prone to constipation. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Colitis and Crohns Disease may also cause constipation. If you have any of these conditions you should always seek advice from your GP first before you try any self-help remedy.
For more information on constipation please visit our Constipation section.
I regularly experience an upset tummy, are there certain foods or drink that I should be avoiding?
If you have a lot of fibre in your diet including dried fruit or pure fruit juice, this can increase the amount of times you have a bowel movement and can even cause diarrhoea. The best way to discover if there are any certain foods or drinks that affect your bowels is by completing a bowel diary. A Bowel diary is a method of recording everything that you eat and drink including medications. This will highlight if anything you consume is affecting your bowel. Once you've completed the diary you can take it to your GP where you can discuss the results.
There are conditions such as IBS and inflammatory bowel disease such as Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's disease that can also cause diarrhoea.
For more information of diarrhoea please visit Diarrhoea section.
My husband currently uses pads but is interested in switching to sheaths. What are the pro's and con's of using sheaths?
Urinary sheaths are made from a soft, flexible latex or silicone tubing that is placed over the penis to facilitate the drainage of urine away from the body into a drainage bag. Silicone varieties are now the preferred option due to concerns about latex allergies. If a urinary sheath is correctly fitted the skin should not become saturated with urine.
Urinary sheaths are medical devices and are usually single-use items.
One positive is the fact that in some cases, they offer more discretion than pads. They are available in sizes for men and boys but are not suitable for men with dementia/alzheimers.For more information on pads and sheaths please visit the For Men product section.
Where can I find out if I qualify for VAT exempt incontinence products?
The VAT exemption applies to disabled people who need to use incontinence products. It is not applicable for everyone.
It works by the supplier not charging you VAT on the items you purchase as opposed to receiving a refund from HM Revenue and Customs.
To find out more about the VAT exemption please visit the HMRC website .
Where can I buy continence products that have had the VAT removed?
You can buy continence products from supermarkets and the main chemists where the VAT will already have been taken off the marked shelf price of the product. To find out more about this subject please visit our Practical Advice section
Can I get pads on prescription?
What is available on the NHS varies throughout the country. Each primary care trust (PCT) has its own contract to supply incontinence products and its own eligibility criteria. To find out if you can get your incontinence pads, products and appliances for free, ask your local district nurse (get details at your GP surgery) for an assessment of your need. They can advise you on whether you're eligible. If you are, they can arrange for a regular supply of pads to be delivered to you, if this service is available. The NHS Choices website also has some information on this which you may like to read.
The amount of pads you receive will be set according to your assessment. If this doesn't happen or you have any concerns, tell your healthcare professionals. If you prefer, seek advice from your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), which can be contacted through your local PCT.
How do I dispose of my pads/sheaths?
When you are ready to dispose of your continence care products, you can dispose of them by following the below:
1. Roll-up the used incontinence product with the waterproof backing on the outside.
2. Wrap the used incontinence product in newspaper or in a plastic bag.
3. In most areas, you can then place incontinence products with household refuse like baby nappies. However, some local councils will provide you with a special 'clinical waste' bag in which you should store your used incontinence products, ready for collection.
4. If you are unsure about the local disposable policy, check with your Continence Advisor or nurse who arranged your supply, or with your local council.
There are also disposal systems available specifically designed for continence pads/sheaths.
Where can I get free samples?
Many of the companies listed in our product sections will provide samples upon request. This is great if you are unsure of what product you may need as you can try before you buy, some samples are even provided for free. If you would like to see if you can receive some samples please visit our Bladder Product Section and Bowel Product Section where you can select products and suppliers.
Who is the information on your site suitable for?
Many of the symptoms and conditions mentioned on our site are not age related, and are therefore relevant for adults as well as young people and teenagers. However, if you are under 18 years of age, you should use the information on our website with care and we would advise that anyone under the age of 18 years should seek the support of an adult when considering any information or advice from our website.
If you are under 18 years of age and need help or advice, we would recommend you try and speak to your parents or other family members for support. If this is not possible you can call our helpline and talk to a specialist nurse in confidence.
The B&BF helpline is a totally confidential telephone service providing specialist nursing support for people affected by either bladder or bowel problems or both. The service is operated via an answer phone which is open to callers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You will need to leave your name and a telephone/mobile number so we can call you back.
I would like to join an online forum to share my experiences and talk to others in a similar position. Where can I find out more about online forums?
B&BF now works in partnership with an independent organisation called Talkhealth to promote continence issues and raise awareness of bladder and bowel problems via TalkHealths online forum service. Visitors to the B&BF website will now be able to join this forum or simply browse the posts by following a direct link to this online community.
There are many forums on this site, but the ones mainly associated with our work are the forums called incontinence, Men's health, IBS and Women's health forums. They also now offer a children's health line.
The Talkcontinence Forum is managed and run in its entirety by the Talkhealth team and you can access it by visiting the Talkhealth website.
What is the Radar Key?
The National Key Scheme (NKS) offers disabled people independent access to locked public toilets around the country. Toilets fitted with National Key Scheme (NKS) locks can now be found in shopping centres, pubs, cafes, department stores, bus and train stations and many other locations in most parts of the country.
Although these essentially are disabled toilets, you can still gain access to them if you have the key.
If you would like to find out more about the Radar key please visit the Radar website. Or call 0207 250 8181.
I'm not happy with the quality of care I've received, what can I do?
If you, or someone you care for, experiences poor care and you want to make a formal complain about it you should initially make your complaint to the service provider who has a legal duty to respond to you and listen to your views. If you don’t feel able to do that or the provider has not responded satisfactorily, you can pursue your formal complaint with the relevant ombudsman – the Local Government Ombudsman for social care, and the Parliamentary Health Services Ombudsman for healthcare.
To find out more about quality of care and how to complain should your expectations not be met, please visit our Practical Advice section.
What can I do if I have been denied welfare benefit?
There is an organisation called Turn2Us who have information available on their website about challenging welfare decisions. They also help people gain access to benefits and grants and have a useful tools section. Please visit the Turn2Us website for more information. Or call 0808 802 2000.
I want to go on holiday, what should I do?
As long as you prepare carefully and plan everything in advance, you can still go on holiday. There are certain factors that you need to think of to ensure your holiday runs as smoothly as possible. Consider whether you’ll need a GP’s note, do you have the right travel insurance, how many supplies will you need, are there laundry facilities, what will the food be like, will you have access to toilets etc.
To read more about travelling with confidence, please visit our Bladder Support and Advice section.
FAQs About B&BF
What is the Bladder and Bowel Foundation (B&BF)?
The Bladder and Bowel Foundation (B&BF) is the UK wide charity for people with bladder and bowel control problems. B&BF provides information and support services for patients, their families, carers and healthcare professionals.
SATRA Innovation Park, Rockingham Road, Kettering, Northants, NN16 9JH
Registered Charity Number 1085095
What sort of services do you provide?
We provide an urgency card, called a - Just Can't Wait - Toilet card, for people who have to rush to the toilet. The card shows that the holder has a medical condition that may require the urgent need of a toilet. It can be used to help gain access to a toilet when out and about at the discretion of the shop or business in question. Please visit our toilet card page for more information.
We can also put people in touch with their nearest continence clinic so they can be assessed by a continence advisor. A continence advisor is a nurse or physiotherapist who has specialised in bladder and bowel problems. These clinics are part of the NHS, so offer a free service. Patients can ring most clinics direct to make an appointment.
We have a helpline which is a totally confidential telephone service providing specialist nursing support for people affected by either bladder or bowel problems or both. It is staffed by specialist continence nurses and physiotherapists who bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge gained over many years working with patients who suffer from a variety of bladder and bowel symptoms. The service is operated via an answer phone which is open to callers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You will need to leave your name and a telephone number so we can call you back.
B&BF provides a range of patient-friendly information booklets about bladder and bowel problems that explain the causes, symptoms and possible treatment options. The booklets also offer advice and tips on coping with these problems. Titles we currently produce include:
- Dispelling the Myths - The truth about bladder and bowel disorders
- A Healthy Bladder, What to do if things go wrong
- Bowel Problems, What to do if things go wrong
- Only When I Laugh, Cough or Sneeze! A guide to stress urinary incontinence - only available online
- Just Can't Wait, For people who have to rush to the toilet - only available online
- Skin Care - Care and protection for your most vital asset
- Facing up to Incontinence a collection of personal stories - only available online
- B&BF Services Leaflet - General services and contact information
- Pathway to Success, your guide to Overactive Bladder
We also have a range of fact sheets covering more specific information. New titles are continually being added.
A full list can be requested by calling 01536 533255 or found in our Resources section.
Where can I get the details of the nearest continence clinic and how will I know if I can self-refer?
B&BF has a list of NHS continence clinics, to find our where your nearest clinic is please contact the B&BF office on 01536 533255.
You can phone and make an appointment with most clinics, however, please bear in mind that some clinics will only take referrals from a health professional.
Do you have a membership fee?
B&BF is not classed as a membership charity, however, as a charity not funded by the Government or the NHS we are reliant on the generous donations and financial support of individuals and organisations to continue our vital work. There are two supporter packages available online; one for individuals and the other for health professionals.
As a registered individual supporter you can access and download all our literature and information resources online, receive our Just Can't Wait toilet card. Annual registered support for an individual is GBP10.00 per year.
Annual registered support for health professionals is only GBP20.00 per year. As a registered health professional you will have access to read and download all our literature and information resources online, and order bulk hard copies of resources at reduced prices.
To find out more about becoming a registered supporter, please visit our Support Us section.
B&BF uses PayPal for all payments made online to us. PayPal is a secure worldwide payment system, and you do not need a PayPal account to complete these transactions.
How is Bladder and Bowel Foundation (B&BF) funded?
B&BF relies on the financial support of companies, individuals and grants to fund its work. The vast majority of funding comes from companies and organisations involved in providing care for people with bladder and bowel problems, with the balance sourced from grants and public and professional subscriptions through our two registered supporter schemes.
Additionally, we accept donations, gift aid and legacies. To donate now please click here.
How can companies and organisations support you?
Support can come in various forms. From fundraising activities to TV campaigns; there is no limit to the ways in which people can support us.
Companies can support B&BF by joining our Corporate Partnership Programme. Over and above a standard website package, there are no fixed levels of support as we prefer to negotiate bespoke packages based on the clients strategic aims and objectives, and those of B&BF. Corporate packages can include support for marketing, PR or sales orientated projects, and options such as bringing a new product to market, re-branding or improving a current product, market expansion, increasing sales or a targeted media led PR campaign.
Funding received via the Corporate Partnership Programme is vital, without continued support, B&BF would not be able to exist. More information on corporate support can be found in our Support Us section.
Non-commercial organisations can help support B&BF by introducing their visitors/customers to our services and website. Creating links to pages on our site and our resources is a fantastic way of supporting us and helping to raise awareness. Please contact us if you would like more information about reciprocal links.