There’s one toilet habit most women are probably guilty of committing now and then, but here’s why experts warn against it.
The toilet is a notoriously private place, where unless you’re a parent of children under four years of age or a velcro pet, you’re usually left to do your business in peace.
So, given the private nature of our time on our toilets, it can be a little difficult to know whether we’re guilty of committing any restroom faux-pas– until now that is.
Ladies, if you’re prone to squatting over a porcelain bowl in the name of hygiene, we’ve got some bad news for you. Here’s why experts don’t recommend the toilet technique.
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Why do people squat over the toilet?
When you really think about the sheer volume of cheeks public restrooms at airports, shopping centres or petrol statins encounter each week (we’re talking in the thousands), it’s natural to feel a little trepidation about making direct contact.
But when you’ve spent 12 hours stuck in the middle seat on a flight, taking advantage of the free-flowing mini beverages, sometimes holding it in simply isn’t an option.
A 2019 review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health explored a spectrum of women’s bathroom behaviours, finding several commonalities across the board.
Comparing the data, researchers found many individuals avoided using public toilets entirely, with most admitting to being worried about the general cleanliness of bathrooms shared with strangers. Alas, the affinity for squatting over public toilets appeared to be understandably high among women.
Why you should never squat
Anyone who has popped a squat over a toilet bowl in their lifetime will remember the feeling- it’s essential the same thing you do in your 8 AM pilates class. The strain on your legs, core and back is anything but relaxing– a state most people might associate with a successful bathroom break.
According to Dr Carol Figuers, EdD, professor at Duke University School of Medicine, the act of squatting while doing your business can lead to more than just discomfort in the moment.
“When you don’t completely sit down, your muscles are not completely relaxed,” she says. “In order for the bladder to completely empty, the pelvic floor muscles have to be let go.”
The pelvic floor specialist explains that an individual’s muscles are usually 30 to 40 per cent tensed when squatting, meaning a portion of your bladder contents will remain. Why is this a problem?
In the short term, carrying around ‘old’ urine places you at risk of an accidental leak if you sneeze, laugh, jump or cough (depending on your overall pelvic floor strength. In the long term, Dr Figuers says that ‘old’ urine can cause irritation inside the bladder, leaving you feeling like you need to urinate more often than you usually would.
What you should do instead
While the likelihood of you catching some terrible flesh-eating bacteria or life-ruining STI is extremely minute, we’ve all heard enough horror stories and urban legends to render our apprehension valid.
If you find yourself in a less-than-satisfactory bathroom situation, Dr Figuers recommends simply fashioning a ‘nest’ of toilet paper to sit on, or utilising a paper seat cover if the facilities have any on offer.
And if you are forced to, infrequent squatting or hovering is generally fine, but for the sake of your pelvic control, don’t make it a habit.