Do you ever find yourself working long hours and skip your chance for a bathroom break? Do you often end up “holding it” for an extended time? In a healthy adult, occasionally holding in your pee shouldn't do any damage, it's when you do it all the time that you could cause yourself some problems.
Why You Should Not Hold Your Pee For A Long Period Of Time
While the human bladder typically holds between 1.5 and 2 cups of fluid, the perception of feeling full varies from person to person. How fast the bladder fills depends on a number of factors, and therefore, there’s no hard and fast rule about how long people can go between bathroom trips. In most cases, however, people can go for 3 to 4 hours between bathroom visits.
Of course, this will also vary based on how much a person is drinking; taking in a lot of water over a short period of time or drinking beverages with caffeine might cause a greater urge to pee.
Health Risks of Holding You Pee
In most cases, holding in urine for a short period of time until there is a time and place to go is not going to be harmful. However, holding in urine is associated with a small increased risk of urinary tract infections. This is because the urine standing in the bladder can increase the bacteria growth there.
In certain circumstances, holding urine for any length of time can be dangerous. If you have any of the following conditions, holding your urine can increase your risk of infection or kidney disease:
- enlarged prostate
- neurogenic bladder
- kidney disorders
- urinary retention
Woman who are pregnant are already at an increased risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs). If you’re pregnant, holding your pee can further increase this risk.
What happens to your body when you hold your pee?
When you feel the urge to empty your bladder, the reason behind it isn’t as simple as your bladder filling up with liquid. It’s actually a pretty complex process involving many muscles, organs, and nerves that work together to tell you that it’s time to go.
When your bladder is about half full, it activates the nerves in your bladder. These nerves signal your brain to give you the urge to urinate. The brain then signals the bladder to hold on until it’s time. Holding your pee involves consciously fighting this signal to urinate.
These signals will differ from person to person. They also vary according to your age, how much liquid your bladder contains, and what time of day it is. For example, these signals decrease at night — that way you can get a full night’s rest instead of running to the restroom every few hours!
If these signals pick up, it may be the result of an underlying medical condition. Some people may develop an overactive bladder or have a bladder that’s triggered by stress.
For some women, the urge to urinate more frequently can increase after having children. This results from changes that occur during childbirth, including weakened muscles and nerve stimulation.
Training the body to pee less often
In some cases, doctors may recommend retraining the bladder to pee 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 urge 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.
You should not make a habit of holding your urine all the time. Find a way to take short bathroom breaks. If you know that your work schedule is hectic, take advantage of down times even when you don’t feel the need to go. Or set reminders if you get busy and distracted for short breaks. For the sake of your health, don’t just hold it!
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