Going to the bathroom is one of the most natural human behaviors and something we do multiple times a day. Most of us are taught to use the bathroom to empty our bladder from such a young age that we can't even recall learning. But not all of us go about the process the right way.
"Because this activity literally happens behind closed doors, we don't have many opportunities to talk about the best practices associated with peeing," says Lindsey Vestal, occupational therapist, pelvic floor specialist and founder of The Functional Pelvis and Leader for Thinx, Inc. "When we do follow optimal practices, our pelvic floor muscles benefit so much."
Good toileting habits are also important for keeping your bladder healthy.
"Taking time to fully relax your pelvic floor muscles while you're going to the bathroom will allow you to completely empty your bladder, significantly decreasing your risk of bladder infections and/or pelvic floor muscle dysfunction," adds Liz Simons, PT, DPT, pelvic floor rehabilitation expert and owner of Terra Wellness Physical Therapy on Long Island.
Wondering whether your bathroom habits are up to par — or potentially putting your down-there region at risk? Here are some of the biggest mistakes you could make when you pee that lead to pelvic issues, according to experts.
Mistake 1: You Wipe Back to Front
You were probably instructed not to do this when you were potty-trained, but you may not be following the rule every time you go to the bathroom.
"Wiping back to front can introduce feces and fluids forward near the urethra or urine hole, which can lead to a urinary tract infection," warns Aaron B. Grotas, MD, urologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Whenever you go to the bathroom, whether it's number one or number two, Dr. Grotas recommends always making a concerted effort to wipe front to back.
Mistake 2: You Push While Peeing
Holding your breath while urinating or pushing with your abdominal muscles to speed up the process won't hurt you if you do it once in a while, but if this is an everyday habit, it may weaken your bladder, says Jenny Archer, PT, DPT, a pelvic floor therapist based in Nashville, Tennessee.
"Doing this daily or even several times a day can cause the bladder to weaken while also putting increased strain on your pelvic organs," she says. "This can cause multiple issues, including pelvic organ prolapse, difficulty emptying your bladder, and even contribute to hemorrhoids."
Instead, she suggests relaxing as much as you can and allowing your urine stream to flow out at its own natural pace.
Mistake 3: You Hover Instead of Sit
When you go to the bathroom, it's best to be in a seated, relaxed position. If you, instead, squat or "hover" over the toilet, you are tightening your pelvic floor, which limits how strongly your bladder can contract to empty, Archer explains.
"Over time, this forces you to use your abdominals to empty, and the bladder becomes sluggish and may have difficulty emptying on its own even when you sit," she says.
Mistake 4: You Rush the Process
Even if you're short on time, it's not wise to be in a hurry while using the toilet. Rushing through peeing means you might not empty your bladder fully, which can lead to leaking or accidents, warns Dr. Grotas.
Instead, he recommends giving yourself the time you need on the loo to fully empty your bladder. "This way, your bladder can fill up from scratch rather than tipping over an hour later when it was only emptied halfway," he says.
Mistake 5: You Hold In Your Pee as Long as You Can
Ignoring the urge to urinate can compromise your bladder health and upset its normal functioning, warns Dr. Simons.
"If you have the urge to urinate, but are holding it in for long periods of time (five or more hours), you could dampen your brain's ability to perceive bladder fullness, as well as potentially strain the stretch receptors in the bladder wall, making them less sensitive," she says. "This confusion of the bladder could lead to urine leakage or bladder infections, among other issues."
She recommends peeing every two to four hours to avoid this issue.
Mistake 6: You're Peeing When You Don't Really Need To
Trying to empty your bladder often just in case you have to go at an inconvenient time might sound sensible, but it's not good for your bladder health.
"If you go to the bathroom without waiting for an appropriate urge, you will train your bladder to be more sensitive to filling and have more frequent urges to urinate," says Dr. Simons.
If this is one of your bathroom habits, she recommends retraining your bladder with the help of a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Mistake 7: You're Slouching When You Sit
Just like hovering, slouching while peeing can place unnecessary pressure on your bladder and may even make it difficult for you to urinate.
"If you don't allow for the natural bladder contraction to happen, you may not fully empty your bladder or find that as you straighten up to stand, more pee comes out," Archer says. "It's best to either sit upright or slightly lean forward with your arms relaxed on your legs."
Mistake 8: You Do Kegels While Peeing
Doing kegels — an exercise where you alternate tightening and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles — has many benefits, but it can actually cause issues if you're doing it while urinating.
"The bladder and the pelvic floor have a reflex loop to each other that encourages relaxation of the other while one is contracted," Archer says. "So if you kegel during urination, this causes your bladder to stop contracting, and once you release, you've disrupted the flow."
She warns that doing kegels frequently while urinating can actually teach your bladder to empty partially, leading to a start/stop urine stream that's out of your control.
Is This an Emergency?
- Lindsey Vestal, MS, OTR/L, pelvic floor specialist and founder of The Functional Pelvis and Leader for Thinx, Inc.
- Liz Simons, PT, DPT, pelvic floor rehabilitation expert and owner of Terra Wellness Physical Therapy in Long Island
- Aaron B. Grotas, MD, urologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
- Jenny Archer, PT, DPT, pelvic floor therapist based in Nashville, Tennessee