If you’re one of the nearly 2 million people who watch the weekly reality show, Real Housewives of Orange County, you may have witnessed a riveting exchange recently between the show’s longest running characters, Vicki and Tamra, as they discussed their mutual dislike for “going potty”:
Tamra: “I have to pee so bad right now but I hate going potty. I’m very busy. To have to stop, take my pants down and sit down and pee, like, I don’t want to waste my time doing that.”
Vicki: “I hate going potty. I will hold it all day long because I don’t want to take time away from seeing my clients or working to go potty. It’s a waste of time.”
Listening to these ladies talk about bladder control and the annoyance of bathroom breaks may sound humorous, but it actually brings up a couple of important health points: First, “holding it in” for prolonged periods of time can increase your risk for urinary tract infections and even cause kidney damage, especially if it becomes a regular habit. And second, it’s also an excellent way to weaken your pelvic floor muscles and overextend and stretch your bladder, making it less resilient and, therefore, more likely to leak when you least expect it. (Ironically, regular viewers will also recognize “potty-hater” Vicki as the one who lost control of her bladder while sitting on Tamra’s bed last season.)
So how often should you go to the bathroom? That really depends a lot on how much fluid you drink. But the best rule of thumb is also the simplest one to follow: If you feel you need to go, go. Keeping your bladder empty is good for your kidneys, it’s good for your bladder health and it’s also good for your pelvic floor muscles.
It’s true that in cases of overactive bladder, you may feel you have to go a lot, even when there’s very little fluid in your bladder. Fortunately, there are treatments for overactive bladder. For most of us, not going to the bathroom even when we feel we need to may seem like a timesaver, but it’s actually a bad habit that can cause an increase in incontinence as well as an increase in more serious health risks.