Doctor warns why you should never go to the toilet 'just in case'

Many of us will have a core memory of mum warning, "go to the toilet, just in case", every time you were about to get in the car or leave a public setting. But as it turns out, maybe mother doesn't know best.

The peeing policy has been ingrained in us since childhood: if you have even the slightest urge to go to the loo, you must act on it - "just in case" every toilet in the immediate vicinity is occupied as soon as your bladder has reached a critical level of capacity. 

But now, a doctor has lifted the lid on why we shouldn't be tinkling at the slightest inkling, revealing that going to the toilet "just in case" can actually have s-wee-ping consequences for your bladder. 

Dr Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas, a pelvic floor physical therapist from the US city of Boston, has disputed the age-old advice that we should be consistently emptying our bladders at the merest hint of pressure. 

"I know it sounds counterintuitive and goes against everything your momma taught you - just out here trying to save your bladder," Dr Jeffrey-Thomas captioned the now-viral video, which has amassed more than 700,000 likes and six million views.

"I work with a lot of people with overactive bladders, stress incontinence, urge incontinence, the whole nine yards, so here's why you shouldn't go 'just in case'."

Dr Jeffrey-Thomas explained that the bladder consists of "three levels of sensation of filling", meaning there are three different points at which the brain will send signals that the bladder is filling or needs to be emptied.

"The first one is just an awareness level that tells you there's some urine in the bladder," she explained. "The second one is actually the one that tells you to make a plan to use the toilet, and then the third is kind of the panic button that says, 'Get me there right now, I'm about to overflow'."

If we're going to the toilet "just in case", Dr Jeffrey-Thomas said we are actually urinating "before we get an urge to use the toilet" - somewhere between the first and second levels.

"If we're doing this all the time... then our bladder starts getting these data points and says, 'Okay, maybe we should be sending the signal a little sooner, so let's shift this line down'.

"And so now, we're going to start getting that urge to go a lot sooner than before."

Over time, going to the toilet "just in case" can "compress" the three levels together, she said, muddying the lines and meaning there is far less distinction between a little urine and a lot of urine.

"So the difference between feeling like there's some urine in your bladder, and feeling that panic button like you're about to pee your pants, is going to happen in a much shorter amount of time."

To avoid this, the doctor recommends avoiding "just in case" trips to the toilet unless you're going to be in the car for longer than an hour. Other examples of where a "just in case" pee is warranted are before bed or before or after sexual intercourse. 

Dr Jeffrey-Thomas's advice has struck a chord with viewers, many of whom were shocked by the revelation that their precursory peeing could be doing more harm than good.

"This makes so much sense! I was always a 'just in case' person... now I'm 46 I'm having urgency issues," one revealed.

"This happened to me. For two years I had a false urgency feeling most of the time, had to take medications for three months and now I'm more like normal," a second shared.

"Oh my God, thank you for this! I could never understand why going to the bathroom made me have to go even more," a third added.

"Is this why I always feel the need to go but there's barely anything when I do?" a fourth asked.

Others pointed out that they experienced the sensations differently, or are unable to wait once the urge has set in. One wrote: "I'm the opposite - will go 13 hours without going to the toilet, I nearly have to remind myself to go."

"My anxiety won't let me wait... then it's all I think about," another added.

"Sure but this isn't gonna work in NYC... if I have access to a toilet, I'm gonna go," a third said.

According to the Continence Foundation of Australia, a healthy bladder empties four to six times daily and can hold up to 400ml to 600ml of urine. As per Health Navigator, approximately 600,000 New Zealanders suffer bladder control problems and experience leakage of urine.