There are certain rules for maintaining bladder health that many know well from a young age: drink plenty of water, wipe from front to back if you have a vulva, and always change out of a wet bathing suit as quickly as possible. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optimal urinary health, so it can be fascinating (if not incredibly beneficial) to learn what urinary experts do or don’t do on a daily basis as a result of the depth of knowledge gained at their fields.
To learn the ins and outs of bladder health both in the office and in real life, we spoke with three expert urologists. about their (ahem) rules of thumb, including what they always avoid doing in the name of bladder health.
3 Things a Urologist Always Does IRL for Optimal Bladder Health
“I avoid drinking water before bed.”
“As an expert in urology, I avoid drinking at night after dinner to avoid waking up at night to urinate,” says Maude Carmel, MD, a urology specialist and associate professor in the department of urology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Waking up to urinate at night can not only be a nuisance, but also disrupts sleep quality and is actually a considerable risk of injury because of how easy it is to fall between the bed and the bathroom.” Of course, according to Dr. Carmel, it’s not harmful to your health to drink water before bed—this is just a general guideline to follow.
“The simplest thing you can do to avoid waking up at night to urinate is to avoid fluids after dinner and to avoid bladder irritants at night, including caffeine, carbonated beverages, and alcohol,” agrees Karyn Eilber, MD, board-certified urologist and associate professor of urology and obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. “If you’re a very light sleeper, or prone to waking up for other reasons, and tend to decide to go pee because you’re already awake, I recommend consulting a doctor about ways to get better sleep.”
“I always stay hydrated.”
“Hydration is one of the most important things you can do for bladder health for many reasons,” says Dr. Carmel. Staying hydrated, she says, is not only healthy for your body in general, but can support optimal kidney function, prevent urinary tract infections and help you expel waste periodically.
“I pee regularly and try to never hold my urine.”
“In addition to hydrating, I also try to evacuate, which is the official urology term for urinating,every four hourssays Dr. Carmel. “Not holding urine is really important for pelvic floor muscles, bladder health, and prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs).” This is because the feeling of needing to urinate means your kidneys are full with waste materials that need to be expelled from your body. Dr Carmel.
3 things a urologist avoids doing at work
“I never dismiss ‘common’ bladder symptoms as ‘normal’ or ‘expected’ experiences.”
“Just because a symptom is common doesn’t always mean you should experience it,” he says. Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, specialist in urology and women’s health Aeroflow Urology. “For exampleKind of like urinary incontinence after giving birth. Although it is common, it does not have to be normal and you do not have to put up with these symptoms. You have options, and I always want my patients to know what their options are,” he says.
The mindset that something is “normal” can get in the way of resolving symptoms and getting you back to feeling your best. Remember: there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to urinary symptoms like frequent urination or incontinence.
“I avoid prescribing antibiotics without doing a UTI test.”
“I try not to prescribe antibiotics for every urinary symptom that could be a UTI — I always want confirmation from a urine culture that it’s a real UTI,” says Fosnight. “This can be really helpful in reducing what’s going on with your symptoms. It also protects you from unnecessary rounds of antibiotics in case something else happens.” In short, you want antibiotics to work for you when you need them, and taking them when you don’t have a confirmed infection can put you at risk for further resistance. This is especially important in cases of conditions such as interstitial cystitischaracterized by chronic UTI pain without infection.
“I try to always perform (consensual) exams on patients with concerns.”
“If a patient has a pelvic problem, I always do a pelvic exam as long as they consent. I have so many colleagues who never look at a patient’s genitals when there’s a concern, and they miss so many diagnoses,” says Fosnight. There is much a doctor can learn from an IRL exam of the area if you trust them and are comfortable with that. process This is also something to incorporate into your treatment quest – it’s a green flag if your provider wants to look at the physical symptoms you’re experiencing.
Keep in mind, Fosnight adds, that you definitely have the right to consent or withdraw your consent to an exam at any time. “I ask for consent for all pelvic exams. Just because a patient is there for a pelvic problem doesn’t mean she always wants to have a pelvic exam,” she says.