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Pelvic expert advises: Do sit on the toilet. Especially now!

29 August 2020

Due to the coronavirus, many of are very busy washing our hands and paying extra attention to cleaning and disinfecting them. Suddenly we have become fearful of virus and bacteria on all surfaces, including on the toilet seat, more so now than in the past.

However before you next visit a public toilet you need to know that avoiding sitting to empty your bladder can have unpleasant consequences, warns pelvic physiotherapist Willeke van der Neut.

If you don’t sit on the toilet seat and instead hover over the seat, you may have an increased risk of bladder infection. Pelvic floor specialist Willeke van der Neut of Bekkenvisie explains how this works.

Relaxing your pelvic floor

Women are more likely to suffer from a bladder infection than men. Bladder infections have many causes including the position and technique used to empty the bladder. Hovering above the toilet seat rather than sitting can increase the risk of bladder infection. “The moment you hang over the toilet, you tighten your pelvic floor muscles. You cannot relax in your pelvic floor; you squeeze everything together – maybe even your buttocks – to keep it going. ” Peeing can almost feel like a workout if you try not to touch the toilet seat. And this “workout” can cause your pelvic floor muscles to tighten and unable to relax.

Tight pelvic floor muscles that are unable to relax can cause bladder emptying problems and urinary retention. Incomplete emptying is a condition where the bladder is not fully emptied during voiding and this is a major cause of bladder infection in women.

It’s important to relax your pelvic floor while urinating so you can fully empty your bladder. If you are not relaxed and sitting on the toilet seat, it is much more likely that you will not pass urine properly. “This causes urine to remain in your bladder, where the bacteria then settle and can multiply quickly and easily.” As a result, the bacteria that remain in your bladder can cause a bladder infection. Scientific studies show that there is minimal risk of infection or disease from sitting on a public toilet seat.

If you’re still concerned about sitting down on the toilet seat during Covid-19 there are a number of measures you can take to protect yourself. You can drape toilet paper on the toilet seat to create a barrier between your skin and the seat. Some people prefer to carry disposable alcohol-based disinfecting wipes with you to clean the toilet seat. These measures can allow you to sit comfortably and relax the muscles in your pelvic floor while emptying your bladder completely.

Cystitis on vacation

There are many ways to get a bladder infection, but two stand out: “During the year there are two times when women often get a bladder infection: after intercourse or on vacation,” says van der Neut. During sex, bacteria, for example, on your skin, more easily enter your urethra. Always urinating after sex and ensuring that your hands are clean can partly help with this. “And on vacation, what do you do? Then you hang over the toilet because those toilets are often dirty, especially at petrol stations on the way, or for example in France where you have to hang above them. This is precisely what causes bladder infections; not those dirty toilets, but the fact that you hang above them. ” As a result, you do not urinate properly, and the bacteria that are already in your urine have all the time to multiply.

A good posture to urinate

“When you need to urinate, check the following things: how are you sitting on the toilet, are your feet flat on the floor, is your stomach relaxed, and are you breathing calmly? Perfect, that is the correct way.

” Also take into consideration the way you urinate. Many ladies used to learn to urinate “dashes” or “dots”, the pelvic physiotherapist often hears. “That means pee, stop, pee, and stop again. ” Although it will probably strengthen your muscles in your pelvic floor, you will not urinate properly if you follow that method. “You also increase the risk of cystitis again.” Would you like to know more about proper urination posture? In the video below, Van der Neut explains exactly how best to sit on the toilet.

How to empty bladder contents to overcome bladder emptying problems

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