Overactive bladder (OAB) refers to a group of symptoms, the most prominent of which is a sudden urge to urinate. A 2018 review estimates that OAB affects as many as
One of the first-line treatments for OAB is called bladder training. The goal of bladder training is to help you adapt to holding urine for longer, reducing the number of trips you need to take to the bathroom in a day.
Below, we’ll cover the basics of bladder training, how it works, and its potential benefits. Keep reading to discover more.
Typically, your bladder will fill gradually throughout the day. It can hold about 1 pint of urine, according to the National Health Service. When your bladder becomes full, signaling between your brain and bladder lets you know that it’s time to use the bathroom.
The bladder muscles then squeeze to allow urine to exit your body through the urethra. Most people empty their bladder about four to seven times per day.
While the exact cause is unknown, OAB is associated with an overactivity of the bladder muscles. When these muscles contract involuntarily, it can lead to:
- urinary urgency
- frequent urination
- leaking urine, or urge incontinence
As such, many people with OAB rush off to the bathroom as soon as the urge to urinate comes on. However, this can actually make OAB worse, as your bladder will become used to holding smaller and smaller amounts of urine.
Bladder training helps you to learn to more effectively hold your urine. This extends the amount of time between trips to the bathroom.
Several different techniques are used as a part of bladder training. Let’s explore these now.
Setting a routine
A key part of bladder training is aiming to go to the bathroom at regular intervals throughout the day. This helps your bladder to adjust to a certain urinary frequency. Over time, you’ll gradually increase the interval between bathroom trips.
For example, you may find that you go to the bathroom about every 30 minutes, so you may start by waiting an additional 15 minutes before using the bathroom. This means that you’ll aim to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes instead.
As your training progresses, you can begin to increase this waiting interval to 20 minutes, 25 minutes, and so on. According to 2018 research, the overall goal is to be able to hold your bladder for
When it’s time to use the bathroom, it’s important to avoid rushing to the toilet. Instead, try to move to the bathroom at a regular pace. This helps to reduce the association of going to the bathroom with feelings of distress or urgency.
Bladder training involves resisting the urge to use the bathroom right away or “just in case.” Initially, trying not to use the bathroom immediately when the urge to urinate comes on can be difficult.
Practicing distraction techniques can help. These include things like:
- Pelvic floor exercises. Pelvic floor exercises like Kegels can strengthen the muscles involved with urination. Contracting your pelvic floor muscles when the urge to urinate happens can help to ease this feeling.
- Deep breathing exercises. Doing deep breathing exercises can help you to relax when you feel the need to urinate.
- Staying still. Movement can sometimes make urinary urgency worse. When this feeling arises, stand still or sit down on a hard surface to help ease it. Crossing your legs may also help.
- Finding an activity to distract you. Doing things like watching TV, reading a book, or even counting down from 100 may also help to take your mind off of having to go.
It’s important to note that some distraction techniques may work for some individuals and not others. Try to stay patient as you figure out which distraction techniques work best for you.
It’s natural to think that drinking fewer liquids can help to reduce urinary frequency. However, it’s still important to make sure you’re consuming enough liquids throughout the day.
Drinking enough liquids can prevent things like dehydration, constipation, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). It also helps with bladder training.
Remember that your bladder needs to get full for bladder training to be effective. Also, urine that’s too concentrated can irritate the lining of your bladder, aggravating your symptoms.
To help keep to your bladder training routine at night, it may be a good idea to limit liquids 1 or 2 hours before bed. Additionally, try to reduce or eliminate the consumption of liquids that may irritate your bladder, such as:
- caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and energy drinks
- carbonated drinks
- beverages that contain aspartame
- juices from citrus fruits like orange or grapefruit
Keeping a diary
It’s important to keep a diary during bladder training. That way, both you and your doctor can track your progress. Be sure to record things like:
- when you go to the bathroom
- how much urine you pass
- the time between bathroom trips
- any instances in which you accidentally leak urine
- the types and quantity of liquids you drink throughout the day
Bladder training has several benefits. These include:
- strengthening your bladder, thereby improving its ability to hold urine
- increasing the amount of time between trips to the bathroom
- reducing urinary urgency, urine leakage, and the need to urinate at night, also known as nocturia
- improving quality of life by helping ease the worries and stresses associated with OAB
Many people who treat OAB recognize the benefits of bladder training. In fact, in a
You probably still have several lingering questions about bladder training for OAB. Let’s try to address some of these now.
How does bladder training work?
Bladder training can strengthen the muscles of your bladder. This can allow you to gradually hold more and more urine, reducing the number of trips you make to the bathroom each day.
How long does bladder training take?
The exact protocol that’s used for bladder training can vary by healthcare professional. A 2020 review suggests that it generally lasts
Is bladder training effective?
Bladder training can be effective for OAB. Let’s see what some of the research says.
A more recent
The effectiveness of bladder training may also be boosted when it’s combined with other types of treatment. A
Is bladder training safe?
A 2021 review considered behavioral and lifestyle-based treatments for OAB to generally be
You may feel some discomfort while holding your urine, particularly after starting bladder training or after adjusting the interval between bathroom trips. Distraction techniques can help you to manage this sensation.
If you have any concerns regarding your bladder training, it’s important to raise them with your doctor.
Can bladder training cause a UTI?
Sometimes, holding your urine for an extended amount of time can contribute to a UTI. This is because holding your urine too long can allow bacteria to multiply in your urinary tract without being flushed out.
This is unlikely to happen with bladder training, however. While it may feel like a long time at first, the amount of time you’re holding your urine during bladder training isn’t that unusual.
Typically, an individual should aim to urinate at least
Bladder training is one of the primary treatments for OAB. It involves teaching your bladder to be able to hold urine for a longer period of time. This helps to lower the number of times you need to use the bathroom in a day.
In addition to setting up a regular bathroom routine, bladder training has other components as well. These include using distraction techniques, managing your fluid intake, and keeping a diary.
Bladder training can be quite effective at reducing many of the symptoms associated with OAB. If you have OAB and would like to try bladder training, talk with your doctor about how to get started.