The Harmful Effects of Holding Your Pee


“Just hold it!!” A phrase often heard being exclaimed by my dad during childhood road trips when I had had one too many juice boxes. Though now I have more control over my own bathroom visits, I often find myself “holding it” more often than I maybe should. We’ve all been there, whether it is sitting in the window seat and not wanting to bother the man with the basketball player legs next to you, or you’re a nurse with responsibilities that simply don’t allow time to slow down, a woman’s life is busier than ever and doesn’t always fit in necessary, to put it formally, pee breaks.

So after talking to one of my friends about how she got another UTI – she’s frequently guilty putting off peeing until she is squeezing her legs and power walking / hobbling to bathroom – I had to think, is holding your pee actually bad for your health?

According to, holding your urine for too long can lead to some pretty uncomfortable and potentially long term issues.

So how long is “too long”?

The adult bladder can hold around 2 cups of pee before you feel like you have to use the bathroom. That fact simultaneously surprised and disgusted me, that’s a lot of liquid! Our bladder controls that urine with little receptors that can judge how much it is holding, and when it is getting full. The receptors then tell you when it is finally time to pause the House of Cards marathon and walk the ten feet to the toilet. There isn’t an exact formula for what is too long, but depending on your intake of liquid (or water-based foods like cucumbers, watermelon, etc.) holding urine in for more than three hours could result in negative side effects.

What are the side effects?

Holding it in for long periods of time can result in a build-up of bacteria, which then increases the likelihood of getting a UTI (urinary tract infection) or a bladder infection. If that doesn’t sound unpleasant enough, consistently holding in your pee could weaken your bladder muscles which could cause bladder retention – the cause behind those awkward “gotta go right now” commercials with the women running to the bathroom at inconvenient times.

How can I prevent the negative outcomes while still kicking ass?

Well, simple solution: go to the bathroom. It doesn’t take that long. But if you’re in a profession where you really can’t leave, like a teacher, then be mindful of your water intake. Set a schedule that you get a majority of your hydration needs in before a time where you know you’ll be close to a restroom. I used to drink a majority of my daily water dose during the class prior to my lunch break, knowing I would have that time coming soon. It may be a little strange to have to think about your bathroom usage that much, but soon a routine settles in and you won’t have to be programming potty breaks in your calendar.

And always keep in mind as Kendall Jenner wisely shared,



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About Catherine Toupin

Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Catherine is a proud graduate of two great Midwestern schools: the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Notre Dame. After receiving a degree in English and Communication, Catherine chose to take a risk and teach teenagers in Florabama for two years. Living in a location with warm weather year-round rekindled Catherine’s love of long outdoor runs (and of relaxing on a beach). Catherine has since taken a Meeting Planning job in Chicago, and though the views are slightly different, she still enjoys runs along the lake shore path and being outdoors as much as possible.