The bladder is one of those body parts you don’t really think about until it’s too late. It’s all fine and dandy until you have to pee — like, now — or something starts to hurt.
And this doesn’t really change with age. In fact, according to a study released in November 2017 called “Peehavior,” 60 percent of women aged 40 to 65 don’t think about their bladder health at all.
Let’s change that.
To start with, a whopping 86 percent of women surveyed said they have peed somewhere other than a bathroom, with 19 percent reporting they peed behind the bushes and 17 percent peeing in the woods. Other makeshift toilets include on the roadside (16 percent), in a parking lot (7 percent), in their pants (7 percent), in the ocean (6 percent) and in the car (5 percent).
We also don’t like to talk about it: 39 percent of the women surveyed reported they do not confide in anyone with regard to frequent visits to the bathroom to pee. But given how much we take our bladders for granted, this is hardly surprising.
“Going to the bathroom is such a natural process that it’s often easy to overlook any signs and signals that your body is giving you,” says Dr. Ekene Enemchukwu, a pelvic medicine specialist and urologic surgeon.
She says it’s especially important to pay close attention to your bladder so you know when things start to feel off. For instance, if you find yourself running to the bathroom urgently and frequently — like, eight or more times a day — this is not normal and could be a symptom of overactive bladder.
The aim of “Peehavior” is to provide an inside look into women’s bladder health and bathroom usage in order to get a better understanding of related medical conditions like overactive bladder. OAB is a chronic condition that affects approximately 46 million adults over 40 years of age in the United States — most of whom are women. Symptoms include the urgent need for frequent urination with the possibility of leakage, Enemchukwu says.
“Many just cope with symptoms or assume they are a normal part of aging, but they should talk to a health care professional about their symptoms,” she adds.
Not only that, but the Always Discreet Boutique Online Study conducted by MSLGROUP Research found that 1 in 3 women have sensitive bladders, so even if there’s not an official OAB diagnosis, potential leaks are an issue for a lot of people.
According to Enemchukwu, a few things you can do to help maintain a healthy bladder include the following:
- Talking to a doctor about your daily routine to make sure you’re practicing the best habits for your bladder
- Drinking plenty of water, about eight glasses a day, to make sure you stay hydrated
- Maintaining a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, but limiting quantities of acidic fruits, such as citrus or pineapple, that may irritate the bladder
- Doing Kegel exercises to help strengthen muscles that allow for better bladder control
- Being mindful of stimulants, such as caffeine and tobacco
A version of this article was originally published in November 2017.