Sometimes you have no choice but to hold it. Who hasn’t regretted that second cup of coffee on a road trip or getting a beer at a concert or big game? Waiting until you’re uncomfortable might not be harmful if you’re healthy or you do it infrequently. If you have certain health conditions, or if you hold your pee too often, you could be putting yourself at risk for some unpleasant complications.
Holding your pee too long can weaken your bladder, cause the development of an overactive pelvic floor or cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). In extreme cases, you could even damage your bladder or kidneys. So it's obviously more complicated than we think. Let's take a look at some of the harm it can do...
You’d think holding it all the time would only strengthen your bladder muscles, but the opposite is true. The muscles that hold the bladder closed weren’t built for regular excessive strain. Over time, the external sphincter, or the set of muscles you consciously control, can weaken. This can lead to bladder leakage and incontinence.
Holding your pee too often can lead to an overactive pelvic floor, a painful condition that can affect nearly any area in the genital or abdominal regions. It might make you feel like you need to pee often, or with sudden urgency. Some people experience bladder leaks. It can also cause painful, thin bowel movements, discomfort during intercourse and difficulty emptying the bladder.
Urine is usually sterile, but that doesn’t mean bacteria and other bugs can’t enter your urinary tract through the urethra. The more often you pee, the more often you’re flushing it clean of potential invaders. If you wait too long, they could reach your bladder and start an infection. Women, likely due to their shorter urethras, are more likely than men to develop urinary tract infections. People with diabetes are also at an increased risk.
It’s possible to stretch your bladder to a point where it may become permanently damaged. This can cause difficulty fully emptying your bladder, leaking urine and incontinence. If you hold it beyond capacity, the bladder will eventually allow urine to back up into the kidneys. This is rare, but it can lead to infection and kidney damage.
If your bladder is telling you it’s time to go, you really should listen to it. You won’t likely harm yourself by "holding it in" too long every once in a while, but it’s best not to push it when you don’t have to. A healthy adult should need to pee every 4 to 6 hours. Talk to your doctor if your bathroom habits fall significantly outside that window.
~ Here’s to Your Health and Wellness