If you could make a choice about how much your bladder held, would you choose a small amount or a large amount? Now think about it a different way, if you had the option would you choose to void more or less frequently? The feeling of the need to urinate described as “urgency” is the signal we are taught as early as toddlerhood to tell us when our bladder is full. That sense of urgency, or desire to void naturally occurs at various points of bladder fullness. The information regarding bladder fullness is communicated to the brain via nerves and a decision is then made about whether you can hold your bladder until the next opportunity for a bathroom break. If a bathroom is not immediately available then the answer is yes, you should hold your bladder.
Urine storage is one of the most important jobs of the bladder and it easily stretches to accommodate different amounts of urine. Bladder muscle fibers are arranged in different directions to enable stretching for storage and contraction for emptying, a job that it performs quite effectively. A normal bladder can hold anywhere from 350ml to 500ml before most people must urinate, but it is rare that most of us get anywhere close to our true capacity. The bladder muscle, like many other muscles’ benefits from exercise. Holding your bladder at safe intervals (3-4 hours at a time) will train the bladder to hold better and is very useful when your bladder is full and a bathroom is not readily available.
Some conditions prevent you from being able to hold your bladder
There are many foods and drinks that stimulate the need to urinate when your bladder is not full, these include caffeine, soda and acidic beverages. Additionally, medical conditions like overactive bladder and painful bladder syndrome presents with symptoms of urinary urgency that results in the frequent need to urinate. Overtime, if your bladder is unable to fill normally it will adapt to holding less urine. This brings me back to the original question: if you could make a choice about how much your bladder held, would you choose a small amount or a large amount? If your answer is the later, then yes; you should try to hold your bladder.
Tips to help you hold your bladder
- Don’t carry a water bottle or large container of fluid around with you, use a smaller glass or cup and take small sips of fluids instead of large gulps
- If your mouth is dry, try sugar free gum or candy
- Try spreading out fluids during the day instead of drinking large amounts at one time
- Freeze and Squeeze Technique: When you get the urge to urinate; stop and stay still, sit down if you can, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles quickly three to five times; repeat as needed, relax the rest of your body and take a deep breath, concentrate on suppressing the urge, distract yourself to get your mind on something else
- Bladder Retraining
- Avoid Bladder irritants like caffeine and sodas
I am board certified in Obsetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS). I currently serve as the Medical Director of Female Pelvic Medicine for the Crozer Health Medical Group in the greater Philadelphia area. I obtained my residency training in OBGYN at the Los Angeles County+ University of Southern California Medical Center and fellowship training in FPMRS at Johns Hopkins. I am passionate about the field of Women’s Health and the treatment of pelvic floor disorders like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.