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Can Holding In Pee Cause A UTI

Holding your pee maybe harmless once in a while, but it can lead to urinary tract infections (UTI) if you make a habit of it. Here's all you need to know.

By Debashruti Banerjee
17 Feb 2022

All of us, at some point or the other, have had to pee really bad but couldn't go—be it due to a long road trip or a nail-biting movie. Although urine retention capacity varies from bladder to bladder, holding in your urine for too long is never a good idea, says Hyderabad-based obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr. Anuradha Panda of Apollo Hospitals. Not only would it be extremely uncomfortable, but it can also turn your urinary tract into a reservoir of infections.


Our body is designed to flush out waste through the kidneys and into our bladder in the form of urine. When backed up for too long, not only can it lead to infections, it may also lead to the weakening of the sphincter muscles (muscles outside the bladder that help us hold in our pee) as well as kidney damage. Here's why you should not store your urine for too long unless advised by a doctor for bladder training.


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How can a UTI develop?


Our urinary tract is divided into two—the upper tract (kidney and ureters) and the lower tract (bladder and urethra). Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in the lower tract, says Dr. Panda. UTIs are more common in women, as they have a shorter distance between the urethra and the bladder.


The most number of UTIs are caused by a bacteria of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or the bowel, named Escherichia coli (E. coli). According to the National Kidney Foundation (USA), 80 to 90 percent of UTIs are caused by the E. coli entering the urinary tract. E. coli can migrate from the anus to the urethra, up to the bladder, and then multiply.


According to Dr. Panda, common symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Recurrent urge to urinate
  • Less quantity of urine
  • Burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
  • Pain in the pelvic and lower back areas
  • Lower abdominal discomfort


If the infection travels from the urethra to the bladder to the kidney, it can cause pyelonephritis, a kidney UTI characterised by fever and chills. "In the cases of diabetic and lower immunity groups, this may also become dangerous and lead to sepsis," warns Dr. Panda.

These can also increase the risk of a UTI:

1. Unprotected sex, i.e. sex without a barrier mode of contraception, can promote exchange of bacteria—leading to sexually transmitted as well as urinary tract infections. In some cases, contraceptives like spermicidal jellies can also be a factor. UTIs can also be caused by recurrent sex or sexual trauma in the genital area, says Dr. Panda.

2. Postmenopausal women, as per Dr. Panda, are more prone to UTIs due to reduced oestrogen. They are usually prescribed an oestrogen cream by their gynaecologists.

3. If you have a congenital abnormality in your urinary tract (since birth), you may have higher chances of acquiring a UTI.

4. Dehydration also leads to a UTI, says Dr. Panda. Some people do not drink enough water in general, and others skip liquids to avoid going to pee when they are in public or in an uninterruptible engagement. Without enough fluids, your bladder does not fill up and the existing bacteria sits in the urinary tract.


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How to reduce the chances of a UTI?

1. "Though our bladder capacity is different, it is best to not hold back urine, especially if you have a history of UTIs," advises Dr. Panda. If you're worried about going out, it's best to urinate before leaving and after coming back.

2. Stay hydrated at all times. Drinking enough water will help you flush out the toxins from your bloodstream, and generate urine. The colour of your urine differs based on how much you're drinking water—it is nearly colourless or light straw hued when you're hydrated and a darker and concentrated yellow when you're dehydrated.

3. Improper cleaning is one of the major causes behind E. coli infections, says Dr. Panda. It is important to maintain proper hygiene while going to the toilet. Whatever your method of cleaning may be, always clean from the front to the back. Wearing fresh and breathable underwear also helps. Try wearing cotton over other materials like silk or synthetic.

4. The best way to practice safe sex is to wear a condom. You can also use condoms and dental dams for oral sex. Use a lubricant to make the process more comfortable, and make sure to pee after sex to flush out lingering fluids and bacteria.

5. If you are prone to recurrent UTIs, or have had unprotected sex recently, and are showing symptoms, it is recommended to visit a doctor, who may perform an internal examination of your lower urinary tract.


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