The average adult bladder can hold between 1 1/2 to 2 cups of urine before getting that “gotta go right now!” urge, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. While your bladder can stretch to hold a little more than this, you’ll be getting into uncomfortable territory if you do.
However, there are lots of people who feel like they can’t hold even 50 milliliters of urine without having to go to the bathroom. If that’s the case for you, then there are ways you can “train” your bladder so you aren’t running for the restroom every time you take a sip of water.
Before you do, it’s always a good idea to talk to a doctor to make sure you don’t have an underlying medical condition — such as a urinary tract infection — that may be affecting your bladder.
There’s a fine line between holding in pee and holding it too long. Most doctors will recommend going to the bathroom every three to four hours, except when you’re asleep, to empty your bladder. If you find you have to go a lot more frequently, learning how to hold your pee can help.
Holding your pee for too long can be harmful for you. It can allow excess bacteria to build up in your bladder and can contribute to urinary tract infections. As a result, it’s important to strike the right balance between going too often and not often enough.
When the urge hits, find ways to distract yourself or at least lessen the urge to go. Some ways you can accomplish this include:
- Distraction techniques. This can include listening to music, repeating a mantra, reading something, or even making a phone call to someone who’ll understand you just need to talk for a few minutes.
- Shift your position. Leaning slightly forward can sometimes take pressure off the stomach and bladder, which may reduce the feeling that you need to go. If this position change doesn’t help, try to find another that does.
- Remove any liquids from view. They can just remind you that you need to go.
Bladder training is a preventive method that helps you retrain your bladder to hold more urine. This is a mind-body approach that helps your brain and bladder learn to tolerate the presence of more urine before creating the urge that you have to go right away.
The steps to bladder training include:
- Keep a diary for three to seven days about when you go to the bathroom. Write down the time, how much urine comes out, and how much fluid you drink throughout the day. You can measure with a urine collector that fits over your toilet bowl.
- Review your journal and identify how your fluid intake stacks up to your urine output. Count how many times a day you go and how long you go between bathroom visits. If you’re peeing less than 1 1/2 to 2 cups every time you go or are going more than every 2 hours, there’s room for improvement.
- Try to get your bladder on a schedule. Commit to going once in the morning when you wake up and giving yourself enough time to fully empty your bladder. After this, try to go every two to three hours.
- Give yourself time when you go and try to get in a comfortable position. For example, hovering over the toilet seat to avoid touching it can create extra pressure on the bladder that keeps it from emptying fully. As a result, you may feel like you have to go again soon because you didn’t get all the urine out the first time.
- Avoid going out of convenience, such as when you see a bathroom. These quick, seemingly harmless trips may be ineffectively telling your bladder you need to urinate more often.
- Practice pelvic floor exercises like Kegel exercises throughout your day. This involves focusing on the muscles you use to stop your urine flow and contracting them for 5 to 10 seconds. Perform five repetitions. Kegels can strengthen your pelvic floor to help you hold urine longer.
- When the urge to go between your bathroom intervals hits, try to sit for a few minutes. Take some deep breaths and focus on something other than your bladder. Make it your goal to reach at least five minutes of waiting. Over time, you can extend this to 10 or even 20 minutes.
- Continue to maintain your bathroom diary so you can chart your progress and identify times in your day that appear to be trouble zones.
Some people may try to cheat their bladder training by cutting down how much they drink in a day. You still need fluids to stay healthy and prevent dehydration. There are some ways that you can still hydrate without triggering your bladder. This includes stopping drinking anything about one to two hours before going to bed.
You can also time your water intake with your meals when you’re likely to go to the bathroom. For example, you can drink a glass or two of water about 30 minutes before you eat a meal. By the time you’re finished, you’ll likely need to go to the bathroom before returning to work, school, or other activities.
While bladder training can be helpful, it’s important to approach it with the understanding that you’ll likely have some setbacks. If you keep trying and don’t see improvement, speak to a doctor.
When you go to the bathroom too frequently, learning to hold your pee can be helpful. As long as a doctor determines you don’t have an underlying condition like a weak bladder or a urinary tract infection, you can try techniques to train your bladder to go longer intervals without peeing.