Side Effects of Holding a Bladder

By Robin McDaniel ; Updated July 27, 2017

The urge to void the bladder can happen at the most inopportune times. You may be stuck in a traffic jam or at an important office meeting and suddenly feel the need to go. With no avenue available for immediate elimination, most of us will hold our bladder for great lengths of time to avoid embarrassing and messy accidents. Although it is occasionally necessary to abstain from instant urinary relief, there may be harmful side effects for doing so.


The bladder is a muscle that is located in the pelvic region and supported by pelvic muscles. It is a muscle that holds urine until it is expended from the body. The bladder ends in the sphincter muscles that hold the urine in until it is manually or involuntarily expelled. The nervous system sends out signals to let us know when to urinate and then the muscles of the bladder release to allow urine to escape.

Bladder Control

Holding a bladder for long periods may lead to a loss of bladder control or voiding dysfunction. Voiding dysfunction may occur in children who hold their urine too long and extend their bladder unnecessarily. In addition, the sphincter may not respond correctly if urine is constantly held in the bladder. If the nerves that carry messages are not firing correctly it may cause you to retain urine due to the inability of the sphincter muscles to relax. This may cause urine retention that can lead to overflow or accumulation of bacteria.


Holding urine longer than necessary can lead to several urinary related problems, including urinary or bladder infection and kidney disease. When urine is allowed to sit in the bladder for long periods it can develop high levels of bacteria that may lead to these infections. A urinary tract infections—or UTI—can lead to the more serious bladder and kidney infections. These conditions are characterized by symptoms such as pain during urination, persistent need to urinate, fever, chills and stomach pain.


Because the nerves send signals to the brain when the bladder is full, it is important to pay attention to warning signs that the bladder is ready to eliminate. A feeling of fullness is in the bladder region would indicate it is time to urinate. To ensure the bladder stays healthy, individuals should urinate as frequently as necessary to avoid urine buildup. In addition, it is advisable to not drink excessively before going anywhere that restroom facilities are not available.


When the need to urinate is constant or infrequent it might be necessary to see a doctor to rule out any kidney or bladder conditions that may exist. The need to constantly urinate may indicate infection, weak bladder or sphincter muscles. Infrequent urination might be caused by an extended bladder. A doctor may prescribe medication or exercises to alleviate any urinary problems.

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