5 things you need to know to understand how bladder control works

5 things you need to know to understand how bladder control works
Bladder control is something we often overlook until we reach a point where we’re leaking urine when we laugh or sneeze. There are several underlying reasons why we often lose bladder control, with a weak pelvic floor being the biggest reason.
A few reasons contributing to weakened pelvic floor function, include:
  • Holding on to your pee for long durations can eventually make you lose bladder control since it is weakening your muscles over time.
  • Age is a non-modifiable factor that results in a weak pelvic floor with time.
  • Exercising improperly, lifting heavy weights, and performing harmful Kegel exercises could also potentially be contributing to the weakening of your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Pregnancies and carrying around excess weight can also add pressure to your pelvic floor.
These factors can, unfortunately, be contributing to your weak bladder control. This can with time tends to affect your day-to-day functioning, especially if you have to program your life around your bathroom breaks. Accidental leakages can cause embarrassment and can worsen over time. Which makes training your bladder and understanding how to control your urinary frequency vital.

1. Don’t hold on to pee for too long

Based on where we are at any given moment, it can be a hassle to run to the bathroom to empty your bladder. While holding on to your pee can appear to be a mighty feat, in reality, it’s causing more harm than you may realize.

With time, and frequently holding in your urine, you’re weakening the strength of your pelvic floor muscles, especially those around your urethral sphincter. As well, your bladder might also be forced to stretch beyond its capacity. Both of these can lead to urinary incontinence over time.

A more significant and immediate consequence of frequently holding in your pee is an increased likelihood of developing urinary tract infections.

Therefore, while it can seem that you’re strengthening your bladder by controlling your urge to pee, it’s best to allow the release whenever you feel the urge to urinate. This way your bladder and its surrounding muscles and sphincters are in sync with their designated functions.

2. Pretending to halt a stream of urine

This might be counterintuitive to the previous point, but to understand and even locate your pelvic floor muscles, pretending to halt a stream of urine can assist in assessing your bladder control.

While you pretend to halt your urine stream, be sure to do this for only a few seconds, especially so, if you have never performed Kegels before. When you intentionally halt a stream of urine, it helps you to assess the strength of your pelvic floor muscles which control the sphincters such as the urinary and anal sphincter. If you are unable to halt your urine for about 3 to 4 seconds, it implies that you need to practice your Kegels more frequently to build up your pelvic floor muscle strength.

3. Practicing your Kegels

Once you’ve isolated your pelvic floor muscles, it’s time to build a routine for performing your Kegel exercises. These pelvic floor exercises not only help to strengthen your pelvic floor but also help you understand how your bladder control works.

With a strong pelvic floor, you’re capable of training your bladder for more efficient functioning. There’ll also be minimal risk of injury to sphincters and surrounding muscles with other activities such as high-impact exercises or lifting heavyweights. With stronger bladder control you’ll observe fewer accidents, especially during high-pressure situations such as laughing or coughing.

4. Slightly delay or time your bathroom breaks

If you find yourself running to the bathroom frequently, and are unable to hold your urine, consider delaying every bathroom run for 5 minutes. This small exercise is termed bladder retraining.

For those who suffer from incontinence, this exercise is coupled with Kegels to help increase sphincter control and reduce leakages. It might be difficult to hold in your urine for the first time for a whole 5 minutes, so start with a minute or two. Then slowly work your way up to 5. After that consider 10-minute delays.

This is recommended only until you appear to have better control of your bladder output. This helps to train your bladder to hold larger capacities of urine and eventually reduces the urge to run to the bathroom every hour as soon as your bladder starts to fill up.

However, as mentioned earlier, it’s not a good practice to hold in your urine for long durations of time. Attempts to retrain your bladder are only considered when you notice that you’re unable to maintain sufficient bladder control.

5. Changing up your pee routines

During your day you probably have certain routines or rituals that indicate a need to pass urine. This can be visiting the bathroom as soon as you clock in for work or when you come home from an outing, or maybe even peeing while in the shower.

These simple rituals are encouraging your bladder to work on a schedule rather than allowing it to hold in urine for longer durations. It’s a good practice to empty your bladder if you know you might not have a restroom at your next destination; however, it’s best to allow for your bladder to fill up substantially before you pass urine. These habits can take time to change but start by switching up your routines within these timeframes.

If you’re already struggling with incontinence It’d be advisable to consider consulting with a healthcare provider first. There are many reasons why you leak urine, and pelvic floor weakness is just one cause. Ruling out infections, neurological disorders, or other metabolic conditions (such as diabetes) which require medications is crucial.

When you notice a loss of bladder control, checking in with your healthcare provider would be an ideal first step. This can help you understand what the possible underlying cause might be and then enable you to chart out a course of action.

You may be recommended to check in with a physical therapist to study the best ways to perform your pelvic floor exercises, to strengthen them and not cause more harm. When you start practicing pelvic floor exercises and training techniques for bladder control it can take a while before you see substantial results.
Article written by
Michelle Frank, Medical Doctor
Director: Health & Wellness at Naima

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References :

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555898/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7027684/