How does the bladder work? We are breaking down the basics of bladder function and some tips for helping the bladder function well.

Anatomy and Physiology 101

  • The bladder is a balloon shaped organ that acts as a reservoir for urine 
  • Urine enters the bladder from the kidneys through the ureters and leaves the body through the urethra 
  • The bladder has a muscular layer called the detrusor muscle. When it contracts, urine flows out. This muscle is not under our voluntary control.
  • The pelvic floor muscles need to relax to empty urine or contract to prevent emptying/inhibit the bladder
  • The bladder can hold about 2 cups of urine. As it stretches and gets full, nerves send a message to the brain. The brain sends a message back to the bladder to either empty or wait until an appropriate time.

Anatomy of the urinary system

Neural pathway of control of bladder emptying 

Normal Bladder Habits

  • Urinating every 2-4 hours
  • Feeling an urge and being able to hold it for 15-30 minutes
  • No pain when urinating
  • Smooth stream of urine: no hesitancy, stuttering, or stop and start stream 
  • No leakage after emptying the bladder (post void leakage)
  • No leakage with activity (stress incontinence)
  • No leakage on the way to the bathroom (urge incontinence or functional incontinence)

Quick Tips to Help the Bladder Function Well

  • Avoid going “just in case” as this disrupts the normal filling process and signaling of the nerves. This can lead to urinary urgency and frequency
  • Take your time and fully relax when you urinate. If the pelvic floor isn’t relaxing, the bladder can’t contract to empty. This can lead to post void leakage or urgency
  • Limit irritants. Certain things like caffeine, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, and acidic foods/drinks can irritate the lining of the bladder, making it want to empty more frequently.

Anatomy of the bladder