It is normal for people to resist the impulse to urinate from time to time. The normal bladder capacity is about 16 ounces (2 cups) of liquid and less for a child. The bladder can also stretch to hold more than this stipulated quantity of urine, but doing so too often can be hazardous to the health.
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Regularly putting off going to the bathroom is not recommended.
Possible side effects
Below are five potential side effects of holding in pee:
Regular holding of urine may cause pain in the bladder or kidneys. When a person finally does reach the bathroom, urinating may become painful. The muscles may also stay partially tightened after the urine is released, which can lead to pelvic cramps.
Urinary tract infection
Holding in urine for too long can cause bacteria to multiply. This may lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI). No research has yet proven that holding in pee causes UTIs, but many doctors recommend avoiding it. People who do not drink enough liquids may be more likely to develop a UTI because the bladder is not telling the body to urinate often enough. This can cause bacteria to spread through the urinary tract, leading to infection.
Symptoms of a UTI include:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Pelvis pain or lower abdominal pain
- Bloody urine
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Strong- or foul-smelling urine
- Cloudy, off-colored urine
- Consistently dark urine
Holing your urine regularly can cause the bladder to stretch. This may make it difficult for the bladder to contract and release pee normally. If a person has a stretched bladder, extra measures, such as a catheter, may be required.
Damage to pelvic floor muscles
Retaining urine frequently may cause injury to the pelvic floor muscles. One of these muscles is the urethral sphincter, which keeps the urethra closed, to stop urine from leaking out. Damaging this muscle could lead to urinary incontinence.
Doing pelvic floor exercises such as Kegels may help to strengthen these muscles and prevent leakage.
Holding in pee may result to the formation of kidney stones in people with a history of the condition, or people who have a high mineral content in their urine. Urine often contains minerals such as uric acid and calcium oxalate.
Will the bladder burst?
A common myth is that the bladder will burst if a person holds in their pee too long. This is very rare, but it is possible. The bladder will simply overrule the muscles holding the urine in, causing the person to have an accident.
Training the body to pee less often
In some cases, doctors may recommend retraining the bladder to urinate less frequently. This involves resisting the urge to pee.
The goal is to increase the amount of fluid the bladder can hold before it triggers the impulse to pee. If successful, this will extend the amount of time between trips to the bathroom.
A doctor will often develop a personalized retraining schedule. The following tips may help a person ease into the retraining process:
- staying warm, because being cold may trigger the urge to pee
- listening to music or watching television, for distraction
- actively engaging the brain with a game, puzzle, or problem to solve
- reading a book or newspaper article
- staying seated or walking around, whichever resolves the urge
- making a telephone call or writing an email
The key is to engage the brain and direct attention away from the urge to urinate.
Tips for reaching the bathroom in time
It is best to urinate whenever the bladder is full, but in some cases, a person may not have immediate access to a restroom.
The following tips can help a person make it to a toilet in time:
- Cross the legs while standing: This may compress the urethra and avoid an emergency.
- Pass gas: A buildup of gas may be putting added pressure on the bladder.
- Pee right after waking up: People in a rush to leave the house may skip a trip to the bathroom, but it is essential to begin the day’s cycle of urination right.
- Plan for regular bathroom breaks: Set an alarm and head to the bathroom, whether or not the bladder is sending a signal. This can help to relieve pressure and avoid emergencies.
- Do not wait until it is an emergency: Irrespective of how busy you may be, it is best to make a habit of heading to the bathroom the moment the you have the urge to urinate.