You might 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 might be worried internally.
These questions might weigh heavily 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 over 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.”
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“There’s a couple ways to think about the bladder and bladder leakage,” Gregg says. “Stress urinary incontinence is you cough, you lift something, you sneeze, you increase pressure, you get a little leakage? That’s not normal. Childbirth and postpartum tends to cause this problem in a lot of women.”
So how do you know if you truly suffer from OAB or another urinary issue or are just the butt of your friend’s bathroom jokes?
“We typically see some numbers, that 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, that classifies as frequent urination or overactive bladder.
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 common 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 big way in which women are deteriorating the strength of their bladder muscles.
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 10:00. Go at noon. Go at 3:00. 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 bladder 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 empty your bladder. All that does — that stand up, sit down — is teach you how to empty your bladder fully.”
So go forth and pee armed with these facts, and, of course, see your doctor if necessary.