Children Who Hold in Urine for Hours: Why?

Holding in urine for hours can cause some problems in children. Find out why some do it and how to gradually solve it.
Children Who Hold in Urine for Hours: Why?

Last update: 07 August, 2021

There are many children who hold in urine for hours, but surprisingly, this is a common habit even in adults. Far from being beneficial, this can cause some very annoying and even dangerous health problems. In the following article, you’ll discover why this happens and what you can do about it.

In fact, in some cases, there are medical causes that explain it, even if it usually occurs in younger children. Unfortunately, in many cases, these are congenital malformations that are difficult to treat.

Why the need to hold in urine?

In a significant proportion of cases, children who hold in urine do so voluntarily. This is different from older adults, who at some point in their lives may develop obstructive urinary tract problems (such as benign prostatic hyperplasia) that make urination difficult.

If you find it odd that your child is rarely going to the bathroom, it’s likely due to other environmental factors that you’re not considering. Fear, grief and habit can play a role in deciding when is the best time to go to the bathroom. You see, this can happen to any adult as well.

Girl with kidney pain due to urine retention.

Common reasons that could explain this behavior

If we place ourselves in context, during childhood there are many new situations that can make children feel self-conscious. Being around new people, changing schools and visiting a stranger’s house are some of the most common. What kind of reactions could they generate in children?


Depending on age, exposure to some unfamiliar environments can generate fear. This depends a lot on each case, especially if the child is used to going to the bathroom with a parent. This forms part of their growth and development, so the only thing left to do is face the situation.


Yes, embarrassment can arise in new situations. Imagine that your children go to a friend’s house or to a new school, and maybe because they’re a little shy they’re terrified to enter the new bathroom without their parents. This is relatively normal, and fortunately, it tends to be temporary.


In case your child is very active and likes to be doing several activities during the day, this high concentration may be counterproductive. For example, if they love to play sports or play with their friends, they may be consciously holding in urine so they don’t miss out on any special moments.

Medical reasons

This can happen, even if it usually manifests in infants, as a significant rate of obstructive uropathies in infancy are congenital. In this case, the child is born with an anatomical problem that hinders the proper functioning of the renal system. This causes significant damage to his or her body and can manifest as urinary retention.

Some of the conditions we’re talking about are the following:

  • Pyelo-ureteral stricture.
  • Urethral atresia.
  • Ectopic ureter.

Fortunately, several of these diseases can be diagnosed before birth by means of an ultrasound. Hence the importance of an adequate prenatal checkup, don’t forget about it!

Hold in urine: Is it dangerous or negative?

When the cause of urine retention is due to any of the diseases we’ve mentioned in the previous section, damage to the rest of the organism may occur. Over time, kidneys may become enlarged —a condition called hydronephrosis— and begin to malfunction, which can lead to some degree of kidney failure.

In addition, if the child is older and does it voluntarily, the habit of holding in urine has certain consequences. One of the most important is that it promotes the appearance of urinary tract infections, in addition to local discomfort.

In a few cases, it can favor the appearance of kidney stones, especially if there are previous conditions such as hypercalciuria.

Child at the doctor with kidney pain because he holds in urine.

How to deal with it?

Most behavioral causes of urine retention can be solved by taking into account communication with children. Of course, this depends a lot on their age, their ability to understand and the relationship they have with their caregivers. If you think circumstances are right, here are some things you can do:

  • Explain the negative consequences of holding in urine.
  • Instill new habits so that they learn to ask permission to go to the bathroom.
  • Help them get to know new environments so that they can gradually adapt.

Children who hold in urine: Always pay attention!

In school children with this problem, it’s very probable to change this behavior with adequate guidance from caregivers. Nevertheless, if you suspect any disease —especially in babies— it’s advisable to go to the doctor as soon as possible… Better safe than sorry!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.