What Happens If You Hold Your Pee?

Holding Pee Side Effects

The average adult pees about four to seven times a day because the average adult bladder can hold about sixteen ounces worth of liquid. At night, the bladder can hold up to twice before signaling that you have to pee. That is why waking up to pee like a racehorse is a common experience. The bladder fullness is necessary to feel the pee reflects changes based on body hydration, bladder size, and bladder sensitivity.

Repeatedly holding pee for a long time can have rotating effects on the body, stretching the bladder. It weakens the external sphincter, leading to serious conditions like losing bladder control and urinary retention. It means you feel like you need to pee all the time. Urine is a waste product created by kidneys that use excess water to filter toxins. A delayed trip to the bathroom can allow these components to crystallize if the urine has high uric acid levels and acetate. It causes kidney stones! Without peeing, things can get pretty rough.

What happens if you hold your pee? (Side Effects)

How much can the average bladder hold? A healthy adult can hold up to two cups or sixteen ounces of urine. As for kids, they need to pee a lot more. Their bladder can only hold up to four ounces if they’re younger than two years of age.

Bladder capacity = Age ÷ 2 + 6

To calculate bladder capacity, divide their age by two and add 6. Thus a six-year-old can hold up to 9 ounces of urine.

How does the body know when to go to the bathroom for a pee? It’s not because your bladder gets filled up with liquid. It’s a complicated physiological process that involves different muscle organs and nerves working together. Badder is smart and careful enough to turn on the nerves that send the first signal through the spinal cord into the brain.

  • In response, the brain sends back a “reflex” signal, telling the detrusor muscle in the bladder to contract. It squeezes the bladder and creates an even stronger stretch reflex. This feedback loop is what makes feeling to pee. When it’s half full, the brain sends a signal back, telling the bladder to hold it until there’s a bathroom in sight. So holding pee is a conscious process.

Everybody is unique, so your bladder capacity and ability to hold on or rather hold in differs depending on age, health condition, and even the time of the day. Childbirth affects the female body, often weakening the muscles and nerves in the groin. That’s why many women feel the urge to go more often after having kids. Other people develop an overactive bladder or have one conveniently turned on by stress. It’s hard to find a person who’s never held in their pee.

Holding pee/urine side effects

Emptying your bladder is a pretty important biological process. Kidneys work as filters that take excess water and waste from the blood. The liquid product of that filtering urine has to go somewhere, showing the bladder.

Nothing disastrous will happen if you hold up to two cups there for a while. But if you make it a habit, you can stretch your bladder to increase its capacity. Remember that everything in the body was made a specific size for a reason. As you stretch the bladder, it can also affect external sphincter muscles. It controls the release of urine. Overstretching these muscles can make you lose control quickly.

It can take years for this to happen, but it’s still pretty possible. Losing overall control and going more often isn’t the only risk. It can lead to a severe condition called urinary retention. The bladder becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria when filled with warm and wet waste for too long.

Those nasty little suckers do the body no good. In short, holding up to two cups of urine in the bladder as long as you feel comfortable is okay. However, it’s a no-go if you have a kidney disorder, enlarged prostate, neurogenic bladder, or urinary retention. That is not unless you develop some infection, bladder cancer, or kidney disease.

The same goes for pregnant women. Their risk of developing urinary tract infections is already high enough. Speaking of which, it can hold it in lead to urinary tract infections. If they hold it in for a long time once, it’s not like they will trigger a UTI or anything instantly. However, the risk increases if you keep doing that daily since you’re breeding bacteria inside. The other side effect of regularly holding in your pee is “urinary retention,” when your detrusor muscle cannot fully evacuate the bladder.

You also risk developing a UTI if you don’t drink enough water. Water is great at flushing all the harmful bacteria and toxins out of the body. But if the bladder doesn’t get this regular cleaning, the bacteria naturally present in the urinary system can start multiplying and spreading further, leading to an infection. If you think you might have a UTI, it’s better to consult a doctor.

  • The bladder and kidneys are connected through the ureters. In rare cases, urine can go back into the kidneys and seriously damage them or cause an infection. It could lead to kidney failure and death. When overfilled, the bladder can burst when it’s already damaged by some serious condition like a pelvic injury. Heavy drinking can also lead to this disaster since alcohol can make the body ignore the important signals from the brain.

How to hold your pee when you have to go?

Despite all the risks and dangers of holding in pee for too long, sometimes you don’t have a choice. There might be no bathroom around, or it’s an inopportune moment. Here are some tips you can follow if you have to hold it for a while.

The brain is involved in the urinating process. So try to distract it with some engaging activity.

  • Play crosswords, puzzles, games, or listen to music.
  • Reading a book is great for taking the mind elsewhere and holding pee.
  • Checking social media can also be the distraction you need.
  • The easiest way to hold it in is to sit down or avoid getting up.

Also, keep yourself warm because feeling cold will only worsen in this delicate situation.


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Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher. I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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