We all pay attention to our bladder when it’s full and we’re desperately searching for a bathroom. But unless you’re on the road with a dire need to pee and find yourself 15 miles from the nearest rest stop, it’s easy to forget about this vital and important organ until something goes wrong.
Like with most diseases and conditions, our body will tell us when something isn’t quite right. “Bladder problems can really impact a woman’s quality of life. Take time for your health!” says Dr. Tovia Smith, urogynecologist. Here are a few signs that indicate you might need to seek care.
Signs you may have bladder issues:
- Urinary incontinence (the inability to hold your urine) – remember that time you bounced on the trampoline with your kids and … whoops!
- Needing to urinate ten or more times in one day
- Waking up many times at night to urinate
- Sudden and urgent need to urinate
- Pain or burning before, during, or after urinating
- Able to pass only small amounts of urine after feeling a strong urge to urinate
- Trouble starting or having a weak stream while urinating
- Trouble emptying your bladder
The most important thing you can do is be aware of your body and immediately share your symptoms with your doctor. It’s also helpful to keep a diary of your urinary habits, which our urogynecologists will use, along with using a number of tests and diagnostic tools, to pinpoint your specific issue. Bladder issues may be common, but they are not normal and are usually easily treatable.
Love your bladder
“Unfortunately, our bladders don’t come with an instruction manual, so some women need a little coaching. Emptying the bladder at regular intervals and hydrating appropriately with the proper beverages can make a huge difference in a woman’s bladder habits,” says Dr. Megan Shannon, urogynecologist.
Benjamin Franklin’s oft-quoted line, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies equally well to bladder health. Start practicing these healthy habits today to show your bladder some love and give it the respect it deserves:
- Drink up to 64oz of fluid per day. Your bladder likes plain water the best. Beverages with caffeine, carbonation, citrus, and alcohol may give you more urinary urgency and frequency.
- Get plenty of exercise — walking counts!
- Don’t smoke. This is good advice for a lot of reasons, but smokers are three times as likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers.
- Don’t hold it — waiting too long to go to the bathroom can weaken your bladder muscles and increase the likelihood of infection. Normally a woman will empty her bladder 5-8 times in 24 hours.
- Stop drinking fluids 2 hours before bedtime to decrease the need to pee at nighttime.
- Don’t push to pee — just relax and start your stream. We aren’t meant to push.
- Pee after you have sex — this helps flush bacteria out of your urethral tract to prevent it from reaching your bladder and also helps push away any rectal bacteria.
- Always! Wipe from front to back.
Find more tips on keeping your bladder healthy.
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Virginia Women’s Center’s Dr. Megan Shannon and Dr. Tovia Smith are urogynecologists and bladder experts. They have helped thousands of women in Richmond and across central Virginia get back to living a life without having to worry about where the next bathroom is!