Do your friends make fun of you for peeing all the time, too? It may be all in good fun – but at what point do you worry that something’s actually wrong?
You may have heard it all – that you pee as often as a racehorse, like a pregnant woman, that you “definitely have an overactive bladder.” But while friends and family mean well when commenting on the frequency with which you visit the restroom and you might be smiling externally, you may be worried internally. These questions may weigh heavy on your mind — Do I just pee a lot? Is it because I drink an exorbitant amount of water? Or is there a bigger issue here, a medical one that I should question, worry about, and for which I should potentially consult a doctor?
“It’s not a funny joke,” Steven Gregg, Executive Director of the National Association for Continence tells HelloFlo.
It’s not funny because the truth is a large percentage of women struggle with bladder issues. According to the National Association for Continence, 1 in 3 women over the age of 18 will experience bladder leakage in their lifetime.
“There are probably 0ver 37 million Americans – men and women – who have symptoms for overactive bladder, which is urge-related, if I have to go to the bathroom, I have to go right now or I will wet myself,” Gregg says. “You add stress urinary incontinence to that, not even worrying about bowel problems, and we’re probably talking somewhere north of 60 million Americans. It’s bigger than cancer, asthma, and diabetes combined.”
If you wish for a day in your future when you’ll be able to enjoy wearing a one-piece jumper without the anxiety of having to rip it off in time before having an accident, keep reading. HelloFlo breaks down what’s normal vs. what’s not, what is medically problematic and should warrant a doctor’s visit, vs. what is a healthy standard of urination.
“There’s a couple ways to think about the bladder and bladder leakage,” Steven Gregg says. “Anytime there’s leakage, so stress urinary incontinence is you cough, you lift something, you sneeze, you increase pressure, you get a little leakage? That’s not normal. Child birth and postpartum tends to cause this problem in a lot of women.”
So how do you know if you truly suffer from OAB, another urinary issue, or are just the butt of your friend’s bathroom jokes?
“We typically see some numbers that are the average person goes between six to eight times a day, something like that, which is considered normal,” says Gregg. “If however, you feel like, when you have to go, ‘I have to go right this second!’ and you rush because you may leak, that’s not normal. Even though you might not go a lot, that urgency – that urge-related incontinence – is something you have to have looked at.”
Urgency isn’t the only bladder issue that sends many women and men to a specialist. Frequency is also a massive problem. As a general rule, if you’re urinating more than six to eight times a day, which Gregg says is the statistical norm, that classifies as frequent urination or overactive bladder.
“If you’re going every hour, every half hour, that’s way too many times,” Gregg explains. “There are things like overactive bladder, where women and men, might go as many as 16 to 18 times a day.”
Additionally, if you’re getting up during the night to urinate, that’s also an indicator of a bladder issue that requires medical attention. This is a good starting point for diagnosis and should motivate you to consult a physician, who can help by assessing your symptoms and providing treatment options.
Aside from frequent urination, another popular bladder issue that women face is incontinence. Though it’s a terrifying word that many associate with getting older, medical experts maintain that it’s not correlated to age and in fact is a medical issue that is never considered “normal,” no matter how old a person is. Another factor? Most of us aren’t peeing the “right” way.
According to Gregg, “holding it in” is one super important way in which women are deteriorating the strength of their bladder muscles.
“[One thing I] hear a lot of women do is say at 4pm, ‘I hope this meeting ends quickly because I’ve had to go to the bathroom since 11 o’clock.’ That’s really bad for you,” he explains. “[By doing that], you’re increasing your risk of ultimate bladder leakage.”
The cause? Women are not scheduling time to urinate; instead, they’re holding it in and only peeing when they have time to.
“What you should actually do is plan to go to the bathroom, as opposed to going when you need to go,” Gregg says. “Go in the morning. Go at 10 o’clock. Go at noon. Go at 3 o’clock. Go before you get on the bus, train, car to go home. Go before you go to bed.”
Aside from scheduling times to urinate, another way a person can strengthen their bladders and reduce urinary issues is relearning how to pee. This means making sure you’re actually emptying your bladder fully.
“It’s called bladder retraining and it’s actually called ‘toileting’ to learn how to pee. How many people do you know, someone uses the bathroom, and then 20 minutes later they’re like, ‘I have to go again’? Maybe you didn’t empty your bladder completely the first time because you rushed through it,” Gregg says.
The way to combat this, Gregg explains, is a simple stand-up, sit-down method.
“You should sit down and you should go. Then stand up and sit down and try to go again. So that you completely enter your bladder. All that does – that stand up, sit down – is teach you how to empty your bladder fully.”
Do you pee more than eight times a day? Do you get up in the middle of the night to urinate? Do you feel a sudden urge to pee and worry you might not make it to the bathroom? Do you leak urine on your way to the bathroom or during exercise, laughter, or any kind of abdominal pressure? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your bladder issues are not normal and you should seek medical help in order to obtain treatment and better quality of life.