Here at Lily Bird we feature stories written by smarty pants women from our community. That’s because telling your bladder who’s boss is better as a team sport. These women get you. They’re in your corner. And they’re here to remind you that your body isn’t broken. Hey, bodies age, bladders leak, and movie sequels bomb. Right?
If your mama ever told you to “go, pee, just in case,” then our friend Marla is here to tell you why sometimes it’s a good idea to ignore mom’s advice.
Do you ever go to the bathroom and then find yourself there again 10 minutes later because you’re heading out on an errand?
How about hovering over the toilet in a port-o-john at a summer music festival, or rushing through your bathroom pit stop because there are two stalls and 20 women waiting during a theater intermission?
As someone who has always had an overactive bladder, I’ll raise my hand. I often revolve activities around having access to a bathroom, fall into the trap of going “just in case,” or watch what I drink. Coffee and beer, even too much water, send my bladder into a tailspin. At 35 years old, I studied abroad for six weeks in London with a bunch of college-age kids. The trip involved lots of bus and Tube rides, outdoor field trips and pub crawls – activities that put me on high alert for how long I could hold it or hitting every loo “just in case.”
A year later, I started teaching a class on pelvic health and showing women how to do Kegels – and my life changed. While some habits are hard to break, like just in case peeing, I realized small changes can make a difference when it comes to incontinence and bladder health.
Mama Said “Go, Just In Case”
Going “just in case” often starts when we’re kids. How many times did your parents or teacher say “You better pee just in case?”
Going just in case seems innocent enough if you’re stopping on a road trip or you join a friend in the bathroom for some juicy gossip. Or, if you’re worried about leaks, going every hour may be a coping strategy. Boredom, routine, or environmental cues can also send us to the bathroom when we don’t really need to go.
While well-meaning, it turns out these precautionary pit stops can become bad habits and harm your long-term bladder health. In some cases, it can even lead to leaks and overactive bladder. And that’s definitely no good!
Why Do You Feel Like You Always Have To Go?
Could your just in case peeing be making your bathroom trips even more frequent?
The bladder is hardworking but temperamental. Bladder control requires many parts of the body to work properly – brain, spinal cord, branch nerves, blood vessels, bladder, urethra, hormones and pelvic muscles – which makes it a complex process. The good news is that, like men and kids, the bladder is very trainable!
Most people pee without putting much thought into how much time has passed between bathroom trips. If you’re wondering if your bathroom habits are normal, here’s the scoop:
- Normal, healthy urination is 6-8 times per day, or every two to three hours.
- Most of us should be sleeping through the night without getting up to pee.
- The bladder stretches as it fills up. Most people can hold two cups of pee comfortably for two to five hours.
Peeing whether you need to or not can make you feel like you always have to go. That’s because you’ve trained your bladder to send signals to the brain that you need to go even when it’s not full! This makes your bladder muscles unstable, which can make your bladder contract at surprising moments and even cause leaks. Over time, your bladder won’t fill to a normal level, causing it to weaken and hold less urine.
The bladder also weakens with age, and several factors can make you need to go more frequently. Menopause, vaginal atrophy, and anxiety are all culprits. When the body is in fight or flight mode, adrenaline kicks in and sends the bladder into overdrive.
That said, peeing every hour is not because you have a small bladder. Your bladder may be more sensitive than others, but peeing when you don’t really have to go only makes the problem worse.
Pssst…You’re In Charge! Think Mind Over Bladder
While it’s not good to hold your urine for long periods or until it hurts, running to the bathroom every 30 minutes isn’t helping, either. So what gives?
There’s a simple mantra to keep in mind during your daily activities: mind over bladder. Ask yourself if you really need to go to the bathroom. Are you going because you always go on your work break or before you leave the house? This is where a bladder diary can come in handy.
Remember: the bladder is a muscle and does what the brain tells it to do. The first step to bathroom freedom is to notice your habits, then act (or hold off going to the bathroom) and practice. Try to distract yourself and do something else.
The good news is bladder training works, as does strengthening your pelvic floor by doing regular Kegels. You can train your bladder to suppress an urge, to hold more, or to empty more completely. It can take six to eight weeks to see changes, though, so keep at it and practice. You got this!
Don’t forget that what you eat and drink plays a role, too. It’s important to limit bladder irritants. With a few lifestyle changes, you can free yourself from worry and unnecessary trips to the bathroom.
Ready to tell your bladder who’s boss? Lily Bird has you covered. Get pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered right to your door.
By Marla R. Miller
Marla is a professional writer and pelvic health educator who understands of the frustrations of having an overactive bladder.