Sarah Silverman tweeted a question yesterday that we felt morally compelled to answer:
Prob a dumb question but should you pee w force or is it healthier to just kind of let it happen? Thx
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) July 2, 2013
It isn’t a dumb question, Sarah. Everybody pees. But the doctors we talked to say don’t force it — just let it happen.
“It is not necessary to [strain],” said Dr. Neil Resnick, a Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Geriatrics at the University of Pittsburgh. “The good Lord has ensured that the bladder is strong enough in both men and women to empty itself adequately for your entire life, without ever needing to strain for either sex.”
Straining while peeing is common among women. Many begin forcing the stream once they start using public restrooms, which just don’t accommodate women as well as they do men.
Men’s rooms have urinals, or even the sometimes dreaded trough — those don’t take up much room and have a high turnover rate. But women’s restrooms feature much larger bathroom stalls which reduce capacity and slow things down. The long lines outside restrooms might move some women to speed things up for the sake of others.
It is a nice gesture, but it takes a women between 10 and 20 seconds to pee, and augmenting the stream with force will cut that time in half at most. So it may not make that much of a difference.
If you do find yourself tempted to rush the job, Resnick advises you keep two things in mind. First, always wait until your stream has started. Straining before that might tighten the pelvic floor muscles and actually close the valves that push urine out of the body.
Second, don’t strain all the time. Once in a while may be OK if you are in a rush. But the average person urinates several times a day. Straining every time over several years could cause “pelvic organ prolapse” where the muscles stretch or even break and the organs actually sag or droop outward.
“Some women will get a bulge down there, and that can sometimes cause blockage,” Resnick said. “It can be irritating, it can make sexual relations more difficult, it can make defecating more difficult.”
If you find you HAVE to work at it, you might want to see a doctor. In some cases, nerve damage resulting from disorders like diabetes can inhibit urination. But such problems are rare, and most of the patients Resnick works with can urinate just fine well into their 100’s.
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