Short quiz (and no, the results will not be shared with your friends on Facebook).restroom-304985_1280

1) Are you a bathroom mapper? Do you need to know where every bathroom is in a 5 mile radius everwhere you go, even when traveling without young children?

2) Do you find yourself struggling to maintain the tender balance between dehydration and having to run to the bathroom every 5 seconds?

3) Is your bladder waking you up at night?

4) Are you convinced you just have a “small bladder”?

If you answered “Yes ” to any of these questions, this article is for you.

The fear of being too far from a bathroom, awaking at night to use the bathroom, and limiting fluid intake to avoid bladder disaster are common, however, they are not normal. For the average healthy woman, it is normal to have to empty the bladder every 3-4 hours.The average bladder is designed to hold urine overnight without having to empty until morning. If that seems a long time to you, it may be a signal that your bladder is not storing urine well.

 The first step is to consult a physician to determine if there are any medical issues.  A gynecologist can help determine if, in fact, you have an unusually small bladder. In the absence of a small bladder, urinary tract infection or other medical issues, the usual suspects for the urge to urinate so regularly are a weak pelvic floor, poor bladder habits, and/or a diet full of bladder irritants.

The easiest to correct are bladder irritants, like your morning “Java fix”. Sadly, caffeinated beverages (aka “Mommy juice”) such as coffee, tea, and colas can all irritate the bladder, causing it to send “empty me NOW” signals to the brain, long before it is actually full. Citric beverages like orange juice, chocolate, and alcoholic beverages can have a similar effect.

Next up, the “Just in case” (JIC) bathroom trip. Defined as visiting the loo when no actual urge is present. You know: before you get in the car, before you pull up your spanx, before your important meeting. This is a tough one to let go of as it has been hardwired in us since our first school field trip. The downside to the JIC? By visiting the bathroom when no urge is present, we are teaching our bladder the bad habit of emptying when it is not full.

In tribute to all my favorite teacher-friends who sacrifice their bladders while trying to educate our little people, I present “Teacher’s bladder”,  “Just in case”’s evil twin.  Everyone knows teachers don’t go to the bathroom (and actually live in school). It’s not just teachers, but any profession, like health care providers who don’t get many opportunities to use the bathroom during the day. While dedicatedly teaching classes back to back, or running from patient to patient, they frequently override their bladder’s normal signals that it is full, and overstretch their bladders. This can also lead to poor bladder habits and dysfunction. Kids, let our teachers pee. I’m putting that on a car magnet.

To the Deliberate Dehydrators out there who think that they have outsmarted their bladder problems by avoiding drinking a lot of water: drinking less water makes the feeling of urgency greater. Although it seems counterintuitive, the more you drink, the better your bladder will get at waiting until it is full to empty, which results in less frequent urination urges and less bathroom trips. Stay with me for a quick chemistry review; the less water you drink the more concentrated (darker color) and acidic the urine becomes. The more water consumed, the more dilute (clearer) the output. Acidic, concentrated urine is more irritating to the bladder than clearer urine, producing a sensation of having to urinate that is stronger and more frequent. While it may take the body some time to adjust to increased water intake, in the end, in most cases, urgency and frequency will improve with increased water intake.

Finally, a word about muscle strength and function. When the muscles responsible for continence have been damaged, stretched, or weakened, they are not as effective at “holding it” as they are not able to support the bladder and its structures, as well. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help address pelvic floor integrity and strength, as well as advise on improving bladder function and health.

 Then save up for a small lipstick mirror for your pocketbook, because after treatment you won’t be in the bathroom as much to check in that mirror.