15 Side Effects Of Holding In Your Urine Or Poop Explained

We all pee and we all poop, even though we tend to be "hush–hush" about these matters. Before we get that urge, there's a lot that happens behind the scenes. And it's all regulated. Urine is formed in the kidneys and trickles down through the ureters to the bladder. Being an elastic organ, the bladder can expand to collect up to 16 ounces (500 ml) of urine. When about 6 ounces (150-200 ml) of urine is collected, the bladder sends signals through the nervous system, and you get the urge to pee. And if you're not ready to go, you can hang onto your dignity thanks to your ability to control muscles in your external urethral sphincter (via Visible Body).


When stool reaches the rectum, a part of the gut, it distends. And as it stretches, the rectum sends signals through your nervous system and you get the urge to poop. Once again, if you disregard that urge, it will dissipate in a couple minutes. Stool in the rectum then returns to the colon, a part of the large intestine, until the urge is prompted again (via Britannica). The means is certainly available to resist the urge to pee or poop. But are there consequences of not rushing straight off to the bathroom when the urge hits?

Trying to restrain yourself can be uncomfortable

You know what it feels like when you desperately have to go. You clench what feels like every muscle in your body, afraid of what might happen if you let go. You might contort your face in misery, perform a little dance, and your hands may be strategically placed against your groin should any muscle fail you. And it only gets worse no matter what you do. If you've ever felt like this, you're not alone. It's one of those things that is just universal.


Ignoring that sensation telling you it's time to pee or poop only worsens it. And it's not a pleasant feeling. Having to poop is often escorted by bloating, cramps, and abdominal pressure. You may feel pain when you hold back pee. And this is caused by your clenching (almost spasming) muscles, notes OB/GYN Lauren Streicher to Red Book. This pain, Streicher notes, may not go away even after you've relieved yourself if your muscles don't relax immediately.

Your body doesn't make it easy to hold back pee or poop. And, really, it's easier to just go when you have to.

You might pee on yourself

Wetting yourself, even if it's just a little, is probably something you don't want to imagine. But this is a possibility when you hold in too much pee. It won't matter that you squeezed your legs tightly or hopped from foot to foot.


We develop the ability to hold pee as we grow and our nervous systems develops (via Britannica). As the bladder fills up, the detrusor muscle (within the walls of the bladder) contracts, and the bladder neck and upper parts of the urethra relax to allow for the flow to begin. If you are prepared to pee, urine is voided from the bladder completely. Should you decide to resist the urge to pee, your nervous system sends signals to inhibit the contraction of the bladder. Meanwhile, muscles of your external urethral sphincter remain clenched. They normally relax only when you're ready to let yourself go (usually at the toilet). Your diaphragm, abdominal muscles, and pelvic muscles also help you resist the urge to pee. But if the bladder collects to over 500 ml of urine, per Visible Body, the pressure within the bladder can overcome your best efforts at holding off the floods. Oops!


Holding pee increases your risk of urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen when harmful bacteria invade and infect parts of the urinary tract — the urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidney. Anyone can get a UTI, but women are more likely to get UTIs due to their anatomy. They have shorter urethras than men, so bacteria have a shorter trip to the bladder. Also, their urethras are close to the vagina and anus, which harbor potentially harmful bacteria.


You won't get a UTI because you had to go last Tuesday when there was no bathroom in sight. But if you tend to hold pee regularly, you increase your chance of getting a UTI, as this study published in BMC Infectious Diseases found. Typically, you flush out any harmful bacteria in the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra) when you pee, the authors explain. But when you hold pee in your bladder, you give bacteria time to grow and even invade upper parts of the urinary tract (the ureters and kidney). This increases your chance of getting an infection. Peeing when you have to may be especially important if you frequently tend to get UTIs. It's also important to avoid other risks like not drinking enough water, consuming alcohol, and having poor sexual or menstrual hygiene.


You'll likely get constipated if you hold in poop

The urge to poop can sometimes come when it's inconvenient. Maybe you prefer that all "number twos” happen in the safety of your home bathroom. Or perhaps there's no acceptable restroom around, so you just have to suck it in. However, you may become constipated if you leave it in too long.


Your pooping frequency is normal if it's between three times a day and three times a week (via GI Associates & Endoscopy Center). But if you pass hard, dry stools and your bowel movements happen fewer than three times per week, you are considered constipated. Now, when you resist the urge to poop, muscles in your anus and rectum push the stool backward to return it to your colon. Your colon proceeds to absorb water from the stool (because that's its function). Therefore, when you're ready to poop, your stool will be drier and harder that it previously was. You'll get constipated if the stool becomes too hard and dry. And constipation often comes with discomfort, pain, bloating, and difficulty pooping.


Straining due to constipation may lead to anal fissures or hemorrhoids

Everyone strains a little to get poop out. But if your poop is so dried out that it's basically a rock, you need a considerable amount of pushing to evacuate that rock. Your anal canal may not be able to withstand the pressure from pooping or the hardness of the stool. And this could cause hemorrhoids or anal fissures.


Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, form when the veins around the anus or rectum get inflamed. When you strain to poop due to constipation, the increased pressure could cause hemorrhoids to develop. It also doesn't help if you spend a lot of time on the toilet trying to get it out, as the shape of the toilet only adds to the pressure on the anus and rectum. Hemorrhoids can be really uncomfortable and painful as the veins swell and may itch or bleed (via Temple Health).

Anal fissures happen when you try to push out a hard stool. In the process, the anal mucosa (the internal lining of the anus) may stretch and eventually tear. Unfortunately, the problem does not end there. The muscle underneath the torn part of the mucosa usually starts to spasm. This worsens the tear and exposes the mucosa further especially when you try to poop. The spasming muscle not only worsens the pain of the tear, it also delays healing of anal fissures (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).


Feces may get impacted when you don't let them out

Yikes! It's possible for feces to be lodged so tightly within the rectum or colon that any amount of pushing to get them out is just futile. Fecal impaction usually follows untreated constipation, inactivity, excessive use of laxatives, or use of some opioid drugs. Also, if you form the habit of holding in poop, you can develop fecal impaction over time (per WebMD).


Before your feces get impacted, you most likely will experience constipation for a while. Then certain new symptoms will alert you that something is amiss. This could be sudden stool leakage, especially when you cough or laugh, an explosive diarrhea, less urge to pee, or small urine production. You might also experience pain in the back or stomach, bloating, confusion, fever, or a racing heart. This experience is common among elderly people and can be quite severe or even deadly. It's important that you contact your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment if you suspect that you have fecal impaction.

Holding pee may temporarily increase your blood pressure

There may be a relationship between holding in pee and a rise in blood pressure. It appears that while you hold in pee, your blood pressure elevates temporarily until the next time you void your bladder, as evidenced by this study published in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine. The study found that among middle aged women, systolic and diastolic blood pressure increased following at least three hours of holding urine in the bladder. However, blood pressure didn't increase more significantly with longer durations of holding pee or larger volumes or urine in the bladder. The authors explain that the rise in blood pressure might be in response to the distension of the bladder when it collects urine.


This study's findings are especially important if you are managing hypertension and have to get regular blood pressure checks. To get true readings, it's best your blood pressure is measured after you've emptied your bladder.

You might form a kidney stone

Kidney stones are crystals of minerals or salts that can be found in the kidney or other parts of the urinary tract. These stones are small but have the ability to cause severe pain in the abdomen or back when they move. You may also experience fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, blood in urine, or abnormal urine color. There are different types of kidney stones made of different materials. Each type of kidney stone has its cause and predisposing factor. For example, struvite stones are common among people who frequently get UTIs . Kidney stones can also be made of calcium salts, cystine, or uric acid (via Mount Sinai).


Holding pee can increase your chance of getting a kidney stone if you develop a UTI. Also, holding pee is not ideal for people who have had a kidney stone, or who may have a higher likelihood of developing new ones due to high mineral content in the urine. Minerals such as uric acid and calcium oxalate are voided from the body when we pee. If they are held in, they have a greater chance of coming together to form those painful crystals (per Medical News Today). 

Habitually holding poop or urine can weaken pelvic floor muscles

Pelvic floor muscles surround pelvic organs — your bladder, bowels and reproductive organs — helping to protect and keep these organs in place. They are activated along with your core muscles and other muscle groups when you cough or lift heavy stuff. They protect your spine and pelvic organs in the process. Importantly, they help you pee, poop, or pass gas with ease. Squeezing your pelvic floor muscles helps you close your urethra or anus so that you can hold in pee, poop, or gas. And when you're ready, relaxing these muscles helps you go. The muscles also play roles in female orgasm and male erections. Weakening of the pelvic floor muscles can make it hard to hold pee, poop, or gas, or cause a pelvic organ prolapse (via Cleveland Clinic).


Certain bad bathroom habits can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, notes Heba Shaheed in a TEDEd video. Regularly clenching your pelvic floor muscles to hold in urine or straining to pee are some of the habits that can stress and weaken the pelvic floor muscles. Also, the excessive straining that comes with trying to poop while constipated can affect these muscles if you suffer from chronic constipation (via Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center).

Occasionally holding pee or poop shouldn't harm your pelvic floor muscles, but if you regularly hold pee or get chronically constipated from holding poop, you are at risk of weakening these important muscles.

Regularly holding a lot of urine stretches the bladder

The bladder is an elastic structure — it stretches to hold urine and goes back to its original size when it's empty. However, if you make a habit of holding lots of urine, the bladder enlarges to collect all that urine and may not return to its original size. A stretched-out bladder can hold up to 20-30 ounces of urine, Lisa Hawes, M.D., tells Self.


Having a stretched-out bladder can be problematic. The ability of the bladder to sense fullness may be affected. Also, the strength with which it contracts to void urine may be reduced, explains Dr. Hawes. The implication is that it'll be difficult to sense when you should go pee. Also, when you pee, your bladder may not empty completely. If urine is left within the bladder, it increases the chance harmful bacteria proliferating, and you may develop a UTI.

Holding stool can lead to fecal incontinence

A potential problem that could come with frequent constipation is fecal incontinence. A person with fecal incontinence is unable to control the passing of stool, which causes the person to leak feces. For example, stool may leak out before one gets to the bathroom, when passing gas, or during exertion (i.e., while lifting heavy stuff). Fecal incontinence could be caused by problems with the muscles controlling defecation or by defects in sensing when the rectum is full. When feces leaks, the person may or may not be aware of this (via the Cleveland Clinic).


Holding poop might lead to fecal incontinence if it causes frequent constipation. Straining from always being constipated can weaken the muscles of the rectum, leading to fecal incontinence. Also, making a habit of holding poop can distend (stretch) the rectum, per Medical News Today. This may affect your ability to sense when the rectum is full, thus leading to fecal incontinence. The site notes, however, that holding poop only causes fecal incontinence in severe scenarios.

Excess stool could block the appendix

The appendix is a small pouch found in the lower right side of the abdomen, attached to the colon. It works as part of the immune system of children, but doesn't play this role in adults. Appendicitis is the infection of the appendix. This condition causes a lot of pain in the lower right abdomen which gets worse with pressure, movement, and over time. If left untreated, the appendix can burst, causing pain all over the abdomen. This is a serious event, as it can cause stool, infection, or mucus to leak into the abdominal cavity (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).


Appendicitis likely happens when the appendix gets blocked. This could be from stool, a foreign object, and on the rare occasion, from a tumor (via Narayana Health). But in most cases, it's because of excess stool. So, keeping poop in your colon increases the chance that your appendix will get blocked by stool. It's therefore best to just go immediately when you have to.

Holding pee during pregnancy can cause complications

Pregnancy comes with what feels like a perpetual urge to pee. And, certainly, no one wants to live in the bathroom. However, getting accustomed to holding in pee could cause harm to the pregnant woman and the growing baby.


It's common to find pregnant women with some level of voiding dysfunction. This term describes problems affecting not only the frequency of urination but the sense of urgency, and in some cases the ability to urinate, explains urologist Dana Rice to Romper. In the first trimester, the mix of increased blood flow to the womb, increased hormone production, and increased activity of the kidneys contributes to changes that many women observe. This effect eases in the second trimester. But the frequency of urination picks up once again in the third trimester as the fetus puts pressure on the bladder.

In a bid to avoid so many bathroom breaks, pregnant women might choose to hold pee. This increases the risk of urinary tract infections. Bladder infections might irritate the cervix and cause premature contractions, which increases the risk of premature births. Withholding urine can also increase the size of the bladder. This can put pressure on the womb, affecting the nutrition and growth of the fetus. Also, pregnant women are susceptible to urinary incontinence and kidney stones (via VINMEC International Hospital).


There is a tiny chance that your bladder could actually burst

At some point in your life you might have had to pee so badly that you thought your bladder would burst. Your imagination might hold some truth, because this is actually possible ... albeit very unlikely. When a bladder does burst, it's a medical emergency. Speaking to Piedmont, urologist Nazia Bandukwala says, "If too much pressure builds up in the bladder, it can rupture. But this is a very uncommon occurrence." In cases where the bladder bursts, it's typically due to difficulty voiding urine, which could be caused by an enlarged prostate in men, a nerve problem, surgery, infections, or as a side effect of certain medications.


If you're merely holding your pee, you'll likely just pee on yourself before your bladder bursts. But there have been instances, although rare, where people found that they couldn't pee after holding urine for a long time. This can result in a burst bladder if pressure keeps building (via Healthline). Alcohol intoxication could put you at risk of your bladder bursting from holding too much pee. This was the case of one man who held pee for 18 hours after he passed out from drinking, as the New York Post reported.

You're holding in stuff your body is trying to get rid of

Looking at the big picture, urine and feces are your body's waste — not just excess water and the remnants of your lunch. So when you hold in your poop or pee, you're basically hanging onto your body's garbage.


To produce the golden liquid, each day the kidneys filter all of your blood about 300 times, and about 1.7 liters of urine is formed. Urine contains waste products like urea, uric acid, salts, and amino acids (via Informed Health). You also get rid of metabolites of any drugs you take as well as any other water-soluble waste through urine. The urinary system plays roles in maintaining salt and water balance as well as blood pressure.

Apart from undigested food, feces contains bacteria and some other cells. Also, fat-soluble waste is passed through feces. The liver metabolizes any substances absorbed by the intestines. And fat-soluble waste is passed into bile. Bile is then passed with feces, giving feces its characteristic brownish color (via Fix). Generally speaking, it's best if your body can get rid of these waste materials posthaste rather than hanging onto them.