To Hold or Not to Hold?

Stephanie Struyck Elgin
Author | Shield HealthCare
11/05/19  11:11 AM PST

Is it safe to hold in your pee?

Maybe it was the 50-ounce Big Gulp of soda you chugged at lunch or the venti-sized Starbucks you drank on your way in to work. Perhaps you got distracted answering all those work emails, or wanted to wait until you were home because you couldn’t stand the idea of using a public restroom.  Whatever the case may have been, we’ve all been there. We’ve all reached the point where we’ve procrastinated going to the bathroom, and now we’re in a state of emergency, doing the pee-pee dance with a bladder full of urine, crossing our fingers and our legs hoping the flood gates don’t open until we make it to the toilet.

Can this habit of waiting too long before finding a bathroom be a good idea?

We drink, we pee, it’s important. But urine is more than what we just had to drink. Our kidneys filter excess water and waste out of our blood and produce urine to get rid of the waste and extra water our bodies don’t need.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a healthy adult bladder can hold one and a half to two cups of urine before it reaches capacity. When your bladder is about half full, nerves in your bladder activate, sending signals to your brain to tell you when it’s time to empty. The more your bladder gets full, the stronger the sensation to urinate. Holding in your urine means you’re constantly fighting these signals to pee.

While there isn’t a set guideline for how long you can safely hold your pee, research suggests people on average urinate six or seven times a day. Urinary frequency generally depends on age, bladder size, fluid intake, the presence of medical conditions, types of fluids consumed as well as the use of medications.

If you make a habit of holding in your pee for lengthy amounts of time, you could be subjecting yourself to possible side effects.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

No research has shown that holding in pee causes UTIs but doctors recommend avoiding holding in large amounts of urine for an extended period of time.  If you aren’t regularly emptying your bladder, the bacteria in your urine is more likely to sit and multiply, which can potentially result in an infection.

Bladder Stretching

Holding in your urine can cause the bladder to stretch, which can make it difficult to contract, leading to urinary retention. Your bladder is a muscle that contracts when you pee. When it stretches out, over the course of time, the contractions become less strong, and your body misses the cues that your bladder needs to be emptied, leading to unwanted accidents.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Damage

Retaining urine frequently can damage the pelvic floor muscles, specifically the urethral sphincter, which keeps the urethra closed and prevents urine from leaking out. Weak pelvic floor muscles can make it difficult for your bladder to keep in urine, leading to incontinence.

Kidney Stones

Holding in urine may cause kidney stones to form. Kidney stones are hard masses of minerals that develop when the minerals in concentrated urine crystallize. This happens when your bladder doesn’t empty completely.

Kidney stones vary in size, from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Kidney stones typically pass through your urethra with your urine and can be excruciatingly painful. It is important to drink plenty of fluid so your urine is less concentrated and empty your bladder regularly.

As a healthy adult, occasionally resisting the urge to pee should not cause problems, but if it becomes a habit, there could be serious damage to your bladder and overall health. Don’t ignore your body’s warning signals to empty your bladder. Answer the urge and go with the flow.

Click here to read this article in Spanish.


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Keeping Your Bladder Healthy

Eating Healthy for You and Your Bladder

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1 comment

  1. I worked on high rises and lunch was usally the only time we got off the scaffold. My doctors never mentioned that it could be a hazard. Thanks for the helpfull info.

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