Yoga exercises are often recommended to help control urinary incontinence in women, but there is no solid scientific evidence to show yoga works.
Incontinence affects up to 15 percent of middle-aged and older women, and although there are medications and surgeries to treat it, the first approach is usually bladder training and exercise. Some find an appealing treatment in the relaxation, bodily postures and breath control of yoga.
An analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found only two studies testing yoga as an incontinence treatment. The first, a six-week experiment, divided 18 women into two groups, one doing yoga and the other put on a waiting list. The study did not report the number of women who were cured of incontinence, and the differences between the two groups in reducing the number of incontinence episodes was insignificant.
The second included 30 women, half doing mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises and the rest taking yoga classes as a control. The number of women cured was not reported, the study was not blinded, many dropped out and the quality of the evidence reported was poor.
“Some think yoga is helpful, but we just don’t know yet,” said the lead author, Susan Wieland, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “I hope that this review will point to the fact that we need more evidence, and that there will be further trials.”