How to Empty Your Bladder Completely

a bathroom

We've all experienced moments when we can't get to a bathroom. Whether you're stuck in traffic, watching your kids at their big recital, or simply finishing up a meeting, we sometimes take advantage of our continence by putting our bodies' signals on the backburner. 

Regular bladder emptying is crucial to your health care and proper bodily functions, but did you know that the amount you empty your bladder is also important to your health?

In fact, incomplete bladder emptying can lead to symptoms such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), overstretching, incontinence, and in some cases, kidney failure. 

This post will help you understand the benefits of emptying your bladder completely and give you some of the best ways to do it so you can keep your bladder happy and healthy.


Know Your Urinary System

Your bladder is a big part of the urinary (renal) system that helps keep your body clean. Your urinary system's main job is to dispose of bodily waste in the form of urine. Your bladder is a triangle-shaped organ that lives in your lower abdomen. The bladder muscles expand as urine is collected and contract as urine is emptied (voided) out of your urethra. 

Urine comes from your kidneys every 5 to 10 seconds. The typical adult bladder can hold 300-600mL (two or three cups) of urine or the equivalent of a medium-sized water bottle. Under anesthesia, a typical adult bladder can hold up to 1000mL of urine. 

For people under the age of 50, 60mL of urine or less is left in the bladder after voiding.

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Due to the natural loss of continence as you age, those over the age of 50 years usually have a postvoid residual amount of 100mL or less. When you get the neurogenic urge to void your bladder, it means your bladder is about halfway full or is holding around 300mL of waste. When this happens, your nerves send a signal to your brain, giving you that specific urge. It's always important to listen to these signals, especially because, in rare cases, your bladder can rupture if it's not emptied.

The Importance of an Empty Bladder

Even when you go to the bathroom, you may not be voiding all of the waste from your body. If urine is leftover in the bladder, it can cause a lot of issues, including:

  • UTIs: Bacteria infect the urinary system. According to Mayo Clinic, women are at higher risk of UTIs than men. 
  • Chronic urinary retention or acute urinary retention: Acute urinary retention occurs when you're unable to empty your bladder for a short period of time, and chronic urinary retention occurs when you're unable to urinate for longer periods.
  • Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR): Urine moves backward from the bladder to the kidneys, in some cases, causing kidney failure. 
  • Bladder overstretching (hypertrophy): Bladder walls grow and become thick from too much stretching and retention.
  • Damaged bladder (detrusor) muscle: The muscle responsible for contraction when urinating is damaged.
  • Bladder infection: Bacteria from the urethra reach the bladder, causing an infection.
  • Overflow incontinence: The bladder overflows through the urethra to let more urine into the bladder.
  • Urge incontinence: Detrusor muscle becomes stressed due to excess pressure in the bladder, resulting in squeezing without awareness.
  • Stress incontinence: Abnormal pressure is placed on the bladder, weakening the pelvic floor muscles. Less support is given to the urethral structure, leading to leakage of urine. Common causes of leakage include sneezing, coughing, or exercising.

How to Empty Your Bladder Completely

Follow these tips and tricks to make sure your bladder stays empty and healthy. 

  1. Listen to your body. When you have a full bladder and feel the need to go, head to the bathroom. The amount of urine you think you have doesn't matter. Just go!
  2. Don't push. Allow your bladder to contract on its own. Try to relax the pelvic floor muscles as much as possible. 
  3. Don't linger too long. Give yourself time, but not too much. The longer you sit, the longer your bladder will think it needs to empty, which will train it to not empty completely.
  4. Drink plenty of water. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends between two to 16 liters of water per day. Staying hydrated can help flush your body of toxins and waste. Drinking water also helps with passing urine more frequently. It's better to have an acutely overactive bladder than an underactive one!

5. Void your bowels regularly. When constipation occurs and your colon is fuller, it places pressure on the bladder, making it more difficult to void fully.

6. Don't hover! It can be hard not to hover when there's a dirty toilet seat, but when you do this, the pelvic floor muscles engage and you force the urine to pass past them, creating dysfunctional voiding. Instead, sit down on the toilet seat completely; This allows the pelvic floor muscles to relax.

7. Eat a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet will help keep your body healthy, and in turn, keep your urinary system healthy, too. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH or NIDDK) has an outline of what healthy eating looks like. This urology blog post recommends eating healthy carbs, veggies, and fruits (but not citrus).

8. Use belly breathing. Belly breathing allows decreased abdominal pressure, which is a great way to ensure your bladder empties to completion.

9. Lean forward or elevate the feet. This creates the optimal angle for your urine stream to go directly down into the toilet. 

10. Always sit down. Whether you're male or female, you should sit down when you can. When standing to void, you clench your glutes and engage the pelvic floor muscles, causing more forceable bladder contractions.

11. Use pelvic floor muscle training. Pelvic floor exercises, like kegel exercises, are a great way to improve urinary incontinence or bladder control symptoms over time. Pelvic floor training supports men's pelvic organs, including the rectum, sphincter, and prostate. 

12. Avoid bladder irritants. Foods and drinks you consume have a major impact on your bladder health. Avoid coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, alcohol, citrus fruits, and certain spices. 

13. See a health professional. Get care, such as a urodynamic test or suggestions for over-the-counter medication from your healthcare professional, or seek medical advice if you can't seem to empty your bladder fully, have chronic bloating, or have general bladder problems.

Practicing these tips is a great way to stay in control of your bladder and keep your urinary system healthy... and totally empty!

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Aleece Fosnight

Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF, HAES is a Medical Advisor and Writer for Aeroflow Urology and a board-certified physician assistant specializing in sexual medicine, women’s health, and urology. In 2019, she opened up her own private practice, the Fosnight Center for Sexual Health, and implemented the sexual health grand rounds curriculum at her local hospital and residency program.

Aleece is also the founder of the Fosnight Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and training of professionals in the sexual health field and providing funding for access to healthcare services in her local community.


Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.