If your bladder contracts with little or no warning, it can give you an urgent need to pass urine. This gives you little or no time to get to the toilet. Uncontrolled bladder contractions are not dangerous but are a common cause of frequent voiding, a feeling of urgency and leakage of urine.
Your bladder’s job is to store urine. When it is nearly full, it sends a message to your brain that you “need to go”. Once you have found somewhere appropriate to urinate your bladder squeezes itself to completely empty – and then the cycle starts again.
We want people to understand how their bladder works, things which might help and where to seek help because if your bladder isn’t doing what you need it to do it, we know it impacts on your wellbeing.
People who are not confident that their bladder will work efficiently are more likely to:
be anxious or depressed; less likely to be physically active; more likely to need time off work and less likely to have satisfying intimate relationships. We know that the worse your incontinence is, the worse your depression is expected to be (1) (2).
There are different types of incontinence, the most common are: stress incontinence: leaking small amounts of urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise and overactive bladder: when you can’t “hold on” or have to pee more often than is normal.
Stress incontinence is more common amongst women who participate in impact exercise – (3). This doesn’t mean you have to give up running, tennis or Zumba, but, it does mean you should ask for help. It is vital that women are physically active to prevent conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. We know that the worse a woman’s leaking is, the less likely she is to exercise. (4).
A normal adult bladder can hold between 300-400ml of urine. It empties typically about 8 times a day and once at night – so if you are peeing more often than that, or if you are up more than once in the night then it’s worth speaking to your GP. (5).
Once your bladder is nearly full, about every 3-4 hours, nerves tell your brain that you need to go to the toilet. Once you sit on the toilet, your pelvic floor muscles relax and the muscle in the bladder wall contracts, squeezing the pee out until the bladder is completely empty. So, if your bladder isn’t properly emptied, if you have to strain to pee, if peeing is painful, if there isn’t much urine or you have to go to the toilet frequently – then you should see your GP.
Some people are sensitive to food and drinks – caffeine, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol are all known bladder irritants. (6). Some people try to drink less to reduce their symptoms. However, concentrated urine, the dark yellow or orange pee you see if you are dehydrated, is a bladder irritant. So, not drinking enough can make symptoms worse. (7). Urine should be pale yellow or clear if it is darker then drink more water!
Urinary tract infections, menopause and pregnancy, can all affect bladder function. We do know that pelvic floor exercises can help reduce leaking, urgency and the frequency of peeing, so please, get them done! (8).
We know that embarrassment often prevents people from speaking to their doctor about their incontinence – which is a shame because there are simple things you can do to help. So, please, don’t put up with it. (9).
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