The bladder is an organ in your pelvis that is part of the urinary system. It works with the kidneys to rid the body of waste products from the blood. It stores urine until it is ready to empty it (urinate). Many people experience bladder control problems, which can usually be managed.
Your kidneys make urine, which is transported to your bladder along tubes called ureters.
The urine then sits in your bladder. Your bladder can hold about 500ml of urine, but you usually feel the need to go when it’s holding around 300ml.
To urinate, your urethral sphincter (the muscle controlling the bladder outlet) and pelvic floor muscles relax, and your bladder contracts (squeezes) so that it empties.
Most people empty their bladder 4 to 8 times a day.
Tips for a healthy bladder
Good habits can help you avoid bladder control problems.
For a healthy bladder:
- urinate 4 to 8 times a day, but no more than twice each night
- try not to go ‘in case’ — wait until your bladder is full (although going before bed is sensible)
- when you go, completely empty your bladder
- drink plenty of water — 6 to 8 cups a day for most people
- include fibre in your diet so you don’t strain when opening your bowels (doing a poo)
- don’t have too much caffeine, as it can irritate your bladder
- keep your pelvic floor muscles strong
Women should sit on the toilet seat, rather than hover over it.
Bladder problems symptoms
Speak to your doctor if you’re having problems with your bladder.
- wetting yourself (even a little) when you cough, sneeze, laugh or when active
- feeling an urgent need to urinate, or not getting there in time
- passing small amounts of urine more than 8 times daily
- unexpected changes in your bladder habits
Loss of bladder control
If you can’t always control your bladder function, you may have urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is any involuntary (accidental) loss of urine from your bladder. It ranges from small ‘leaks’, to complete loss of control.
If you think you have incontinence, contact your doctor or the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
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Last reviewed: December 2019