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Good bladder habits for everyone

Healthy bladder hints

Beware of starting ‘bad’ bladder habits, such as going to the toilet ‘just in case’, not drinking enough fluid each day or straining to pass a bowel motion. ‘Good’ habits include maintaining pelvic floor muscle tone, preventing constipation, and getting attention for urinary tract infections.

How is your bladder control?

Do you:

  • go to toilet more than 5-8 times in 24 hours?
  • get up more than once a night?
  • drink less than the normal fluid average intake for a day, ie. 6-8 cups?
  • go to the toilet 'just in case'?
  • wet yourself when you cough, laugh, sneeze, exercise, etc?
  • have an urgent need to pass urine?
  • leak before you get to the toilet?
  • push and strain to move your bowel?

If you have said 'Yes' to any of the above, you may be developing bad bladder habits.

Good bowel habits

  • Keep your bowel habit regular and avoid constipation. Persistent straining when using your bowel can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
  • A regular soft bowel motion passed without straining from three times a day to every third day is considered normal.
  • Adopt the ideal sitting position for passing a motion.
  • An adequate fluid and fibre intake will contribute to a soft motion.

Good bladder habits

  • It is normal to go to the toilet about 5-7 times per day and no more than once at night
  • Your bladder should be able to hold up to 2 cups (400-450ml) of urine. You can usually pass between 1 to 2 cups of urine each time you go
  • Try to go only when your bladder is full and when you need to go
  • Don't go to the toilet 'just in case' as this may result in the bladder developing a smaller capacity (unless, for example, you are going on a long trip or it is just before bedtime)
  • Take your time when emptying your bladder so that it empties completely. Being in a rush may lead to incomplete emptying and predispose you to urinary infections
  • Make sure you sit on the seat (if relevant). Do not bear down to empty. Do not hover over the toilet.

Maintain a good fluid intake

Drink an adequate amount of fluid (this includes tea, coffee, milo, soup etc). Assuming there are no other medical problems, 6-8 glasses per day is the amount to aim for. This amount ensures urine does not become concentrated and that there is enough available fluid to keep bowel motions moist and soft, therefore avoiding constipation. It is advisable to limit intake of bladder irritants such as tea, coffee, cola drinks and alcohol.

Maintain good pelvic floor muscle tone

Other factors that can influence normal bladder habits

  • some medications
  • urinary tract infections
  • medical conditions
  • difficult toilet access (eg, steps)
  • emotional stress
  • cold temperature
  • check out any sudden change in regular bladder habits with your doctor (could be due to, eg, new medication, infection).

Signs of urinary tract infection

  • any sudden onset of incontinence
  • any sudden onset of frequency and urgency
  • any burning and discomfort with urination
  • any blood in the urine
  • any strong odour or cloudy urine.

If you have any of the above signs of urinary tract infection, see your GP.

Related topics

Bladder training and Overactive bladder
Older people and continence problems
Prostate conditions

Original material provided by the New Zealand Continence Association, and edited by everybody, August 2005. Reviewed by everybody, September 2011.


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