What Happens If You Hold Your Pee?

Holding Pee Side Effects

Hello, health explorers and curious cats! Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to go but decided to hold it in? It’s a common experience we’ve all faced at one point or another, whether during a long drive, in the middle of an important meeting, or while cozy in bed. But have you ever stopped to wonder what actually happens inside your body when you hold your pee?

The average adult pees about four to seven times a day because the average adult’s bladder can hold about sixteen ounces worth of liquid. At night, the bladder can hold up to twice before signaling that you must pee. That is why waking up to pee like a racehorse is a common experience. The bladder fullness is necessary to feel the pee, which 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.

We’re delving into this everyday dilemma to uncover the physiological processes and potential consequences of delaying that much-needed bathroom break. From the science behind the urge to the impact on your health, this exploration promises to be both enlightening and a bit relieving. Whether you’re a stickler for health facts, someone with a knack for biology, or simply curious about the body’s responses, this journey is sure to quench your thirst for knowledge. So, let’s dive in and flush out the facts about holding your pee.

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

Intentionally holding your urine for an extended period can lead to various discomforts and potential health issues. Here’s what happens when you hold your pee:

Bladder Distention: As urine accumulates in the bladder, it stretches and expands. The longer you hold your pee, the more the bladder distends, potentially leading to discomfort or pain.

Increased Pressure: As the bladder fills, the pressure inside it increases. Holding urine for an extended period can increase pressure on the bladder, urethra, and surrounding tissues.

Risk of Urinary Tract Infections: Holding urine for too long can increase the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Bacteria can multiply in the urinary tract when urine remains in the bladder for an extended period, potentially leading to infections.

Incomplete Emptying: When you hold your urine habitually, your bladder may become accustomed to not fully emptying. Over time, this can result in weaker bladder muscles and a decreased ability to empty the bladder completely.

Overactive Bladder: Frequent and prolonged holding of urine can contribute to the development of an overactive bladder. This condition can cause a sudden, strong urge to urinate, frequent trips to the bathroom, and difficulty controlling urination.

Kidney Issues: In extreme cases or with underlying conditions, holding urine for an extended period may exert pressure on the kidneys, potentially affecting their function. However, this is more likely to occur in rare situations with severe urinary retention.

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 pee in the bathroom? 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 instead 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 are urged 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 someone who’s never held in their pee.

Holding pee/urine side effects

Emptying your bladder is a pretty crucial 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 and 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 excellent 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 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 must 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.

We’ve journeyed through the inner workings of our bodies, from the signals of our bladder to the thresholds of our capacity, uncovering the science behind the sensation and the potential risks of waiting too long. This journey has not only satisfied our curiosity but also reminded us of the importance of listening to our bodies and taking care of our health.

As we part ways, let’s carry forward the insights gained and the laughter shared. Thank you for joining me on this enlightening, and hopefully not too uncomfortable, adventure into the physiology of our bodies. Until our next exploration into the wonders of human health and biology, stay hydrated, don’t wait too long, and keep nurturing your curiosity about the marvels of the human body.

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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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