November was National Bladder Health Awareness Month, and while November is over, it’s always a good time to get educated about how important bladder health is to your overall health. In this blog, we will talk about two common bladder issues and how you can tackle them!
Most bladders can hold up to 2 cups of fluid before needing to empty. Our bodies start to sense an urge when the bladder is about 40% full. This is the time that you start to think about seeking out a restroom in the near future. Many factors can influence when and how this urge is experienced and controlled. In a normal functioning bladder, you should sense this urge and calmly make your way to the bathroom within the next 30-60 minutes. You should not have to rush to the bathroom to avoid peeing your pants the moment you sense an urge to urinate; this is NOT a normal functioning bladder. Medications, medical procedures, pregnancy, birth, and behavioral changes can greatly impact how we manage this urge and can often result in some form of dysfunction, such as urinary leaking or increased frequency. The good news is, there are strategies to help improve the control and health of your bladder!
Unfortunately, many women refrain from drinking enough quality fluids throughout the day because they want to avoid accidents. Purposefully (or accidentally) dehydrating yourself actually increases the concentration of your urine, which makes leaking worse! So please do not withhold water from yourself. This will only make your bladder and the rest of your cells and body unhappy.
Let’s start talking about normal frequency. How often should you go?
Take your body weight and divide it in half. This is the number of ounces of water you should be drinking per day…yes, every day! The recommended 6-8 cups of water per day is a great estimate to start with, but the weight calculation is a much more accurate picture of what your body needs. And no, drinking Diet Coke doesn’t count. We want quality, water-based beverages here!
Based on your recommended fluid intake, you should be visiting the restroom about every 2-4 hours during daytime, waking hours. Most people will not need to use the restroom in the middle of the night, however, a visit to the bathroom once per night is considered to be acceptable for most individuals (especially those over 65 or during pregnancy). If you are urinating more often than this during either daytime or nighttime hours, you may have urinary frequency.
Urinary frequency can be triggered by many factors, such as medications, medical procedures, pregnancy, and often poor behavioral habits (such as “just-in-case peeing”). Bladder stimulants such as caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, diuretics, spicy foods, and carbonation can also irritate the bladder and cause it to hyperfunction…leading to the need to urinate more frequently and urgently.
Unfortunately, urinary frequency is a very common experience for many women and children. Society doesn’t typically view this condition as a major issue, but letting it go unrecognized or treated for too long can easily increase the symptoms enough to start impeding on your quality of life. I would argue it’s inconvenient to have to visit the restroom every hour (or less!) This is especially true for busy mothers with young kids or individuals who work in a setting that is not able to visit the restroom on a casual basis whenever they please (teachers, clinicians, public speakers, etc). The good news is, urinary frequency can greatly improve through identifying triggers and behavioral training.
As we mentioned above, you should avoid visiting the restroom “just in case.” This bad habit starts to teach your bladder that it can and should go to the bathroom frequently, rather than waiting for your nervous system to inform you that your bladder is ready to go as it is approaching full. Just-in-case peeing can actually lead to urinary frequency, urgency and even leaking. Now I know what you all may be thinking, “You have got to be kidding me? I’ve been doing this for years!” Most people have been “just-in-case peeing” their entire lives. We learn this poor strategy as young children, which ultimately translates into our adulthood. Now, there can be some flexibility in the rule. For example, if you are about to hop on a 3-hour plane ride with your 5-year-old child, it may be reasonable for both of you to visit the restroom before you board the plane. Or if you’re going to your child’s 2-hour soccer game and there are not any accessible restrooms at the field, then you may want to go to the restroom before you leave the house. However, you should avoid this tendency as often as possible if you know you will have access to a restroom. Most places in this day and age have public restrooms available if and when you need them. Learn to find trust in this accessibility!
Let’s chat about the do’s and don’ts once you get yourself on the toilet.
What are some options to help master your bladder health? See a women’s health specialist! We can help in a myriad of ways, including:
For more specific questions and concerns about how to address urinary leakage, urgency, frequency, or pelvic floor dysfunction, feel free to contact us to see how we can help you overcome these obstacles and gain control over your bladder again!
For more information on the bladder, check out our Common Bladder Issues blog post.