Urge To Pee but Little Comes Out (Pregnant)
Morning sickness, back pain, sudden cravings or revulsion to certain foods or smells… these are all part of the journey of being pregnant. Also on the list belongs an increased urge to urinate.
Frequent urination can occur in pregnant women because of:
- Increased pressure on your bladder: Your growing baby puts pressure on all surrounding organs, which may lead to loss of urine or an increased need to urinate in women.
- Extra fluids in your body: When you are pregnant, you should drink between 2 and 3 litres of water per day. More fluids make it easier to leak urine.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause your pelvic floor muscles to relax, which may lead to more frequent urinary and/or incontinence.
What Happens When You Pee *Normally*
Most of us don’t think twice about peeing until something goes wrong. When you pee, your brain and bladder work together.
The bladder stores urine until you are ready to release it and the muscles of your pelvis hold the bladder in place. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. When those muscles do their job, you have control and urine does not leak outside the body by accident.
When you are ready to pee, your brain lets the bladder know. This causes the bladder muscles to contract which forces urine out through the urethra. The sphincter also opens up when the bladder contracts, allowing the urine to pass through the urethra and exits.
What Can Cause an Urge to Pee (but Nothing Comes Out)?
So, it makes sense that you would feel the urge to pee even more often during pregnancy. But why would nothing come out?
In the early stage of pregnancy, this is because the body releases a hormone that increases blood flow to the pelvic region. This can create “false signals” that you need to use the bathroom more often than you really go.
Urinary Tract Infection UTI
One of the most common causes of an urge to pee is a UTI (urinary tract infection). UTIs can occur when bacteria is spread to the urinary tract. This bacterial infection causes the bladder to become inflamed, which may trigger an urge to pee or incontinence.
Ways to prevent UTIs include:
- Drink plenty of water
- Urinate before and after having sex
- Wipe from front to back after you pee
- Wear breathable, natural underwear and clothing, changing your underwear daily
Whether you’re pregnant or not OAB may cause an urge to urinate more often, even if the bladder is empty. If you have an OAB, the additional pressure of a growing baby may exacerbate the problem and create a need for more frequent urination.
What You Can Do About Frequent Urination During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy gives rise to many changes and (unfortunately) the fix for many of them is usually giving birth and healing. This includes frequent urination. But beyond waiting, there are some things you can do to help with frequent urination:
Sit or Lie (Versus Standing)
This may not always be possible depending on your profession etc. but if you can spend less time on your feet it will mean less pressure on your organs and pelvic floor from your growing baby.
Caffeine (and other carbonated and sugary drinks, as well as spicy foods) may irritate the bladder, so it’s worth cutting back on those foods and beverages when pregnant. However, it is important to stay hydrated, so make sure you compensate for any beverages you cut by increasing your consumption of water, which you can sip often throughout the day.
Lean Forward or Try Double Voiding
The urge to pee again will be exacerbated if your bladder doesn’t fully empty when you use the bathroom. So, make sure you empty your bladder when you pee. Leaning forward while on the toilet may help with this.
Another option is to pee, then wait 10 minutes and pee again. This is known as double voiding. Double voiding might be especially helpful before bedtime if you’re experiencing nocturia (waking up because you need to pee during the night).
Maintain a Healthy (Pregnancy) Weight
Weight gain is a natural and healthy part of pregnancy. You should work closely with your doctor to determine the healthy amount of weight you should gain. Gaining excess weight puts additional stress on your organs and pelvic muscles. That increased pressure can further disrupt your urge to urinate, making you feel the need for more frequent urination.
Do Kegel Exercises to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
These exercises strengthen the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. You don’t need to wait for menopause to begin. Kegel or pelvic floor exercises can be done any time, either sitting or lying down. You can even do them when you are eating, sitting at your desk, or when you are resting.
If you’re unsure how to do Kegel exercises, your doctor or physiotherapist can help you. But basically it’s like pretending you have to urinate and then holding it. You relax and tighten the muscles that control urine flow.
One way to learn the muscles you should activate is to pay attention when you pee: Start to pee and then stop. You should feel the muscles in your vagina and anus get tight and move up. These are the pelvic floor muscles. If you feel them tighten, you have done Kegel training right. Your thighs, buttock muscles, and abdomen should remain relaxed.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence for Pregnant Women?
Perhaps on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, is when you leak urine. Unfortunately, both the urge to pee but nothing coming out *and* involuntary leaks can happen during pregnancy. Don’t worry, you’re not being gaslit by your own body.
To learn more about incontinence during pregnancy, click here.
When to Seek Medical Advice
If You Experience Stinging or Burning When Urinating
An increased urge to urinate is one symptom of urinary tract infection (UTI). Another symptom is a stinging or burning sensation when you pee and a decreased or irregular flow of urine. If you experience this, you should visit your doctor.
If you have a history of UTIs you have greater chances of experiencing a UTI during pregnancy. UTIs are treated with antibiotics for 3 to 7 days. These antibiotics are safe for your baby. However, untreated UTIs can lead to a kidney infection, which can cause early labor.
Any Unusual Vaginal Discharge
You may have more vaginal discharge that usual when you become pregnant. But it’s also important to know what’s normal and when to seek medical advice. Normal vaginal discharge is:
- Clear and white
- Normal or mild smell (not strong or unpleasant)
- Is sticky, slippery or wet
Contact your doctor immediately if:
- You are under 37 weeks pregnant and vaginal discharge is bright red
- There is an unpleasant smell from discharge
- Discharge is brown or green
- You experience itching around the vagina
Always update your healthcare provider on what's happening throughout your pregnancy as your doctor may want to do further tests.
Urinary issues related to pregnancy in women usually resolve about 6 weeks after you give birth. In the weeks after delivery, pay heed to whether urinary issues begin to subside or increase. Giving birth can contribute to incontinence after pregnancy as muscles can be injured during vaginal delivery. If this happens, do talk to your doctor.
But for most women, some loss of bladder control during pregnancy is just one of the many temporary changes you will go through during pregnancy, and your body will begin to recover from after the baby is born.