Frequent urination is one of the most common early symptoms of pregnancy, and the increased frequency of urination at this early stage is just a preview of what is to come! As your pregnancy continues you will likely see an increase in the number of trips to the restroom you take each day, starting in the sixth week of pregnancy.
It won’t matter if you “just went.” Even when your bladder is empty or near empty, you’ll still feel like you need to urinate again. Unfortunately, as your pregnancy continues, simple things like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercising can cause you to leak urine, which can sometimes be embarrassing. However, it’s important to remember that this uncontrollable frequent urination during pregnancy is normal.
Causes of Frequent Urination During Pregnancy
The frequency of your urination will change as your pregnancy continues. Sometimes you’ll be urinating as often as you usually do, and other times you’ll see a major increase. During the early stages of pregnancy, your body is producing hCG (the pregnancy hormone, also known as human chorionic gonadotropin), which increases your need to urinate. As your pregnancy continues, your body naturally starts to retain more fluid. This is one of the effects of the pregnancy hormone progesterone.
As you enter your second trimester, your uterus is growing and rising, which decreases the frequency of urination. Many women find relief during this time. However, as the third trimester draws closer, and the baby moves lower into the abdomen, there’s a significant increase in pressure on your bladder, causing the frequency of urination to increase again. The bladder is not able to hold as much since it is being squished from above by the baby. This can lead to frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, sometimes four or five times per night.
There can also be a feeling of incomplete emptying. You think that you’re done urinating and then as soon as you stand up, there’s more to go. Leaks can occur at this stage due to dropping of the urethra, which normally compresses tightly during a cough or sneeze, but is not able to do so during pregnancy because it is too low. The added pressure alone can also keep you up during the night, causing you to spend endless time in the restroom. No wonder pregnant women do not sleep well!
Another cause of frequent urination during pregnancy is bladder infection or UTI (urinary tract infection), which if untreated can lead to an even more serious problem. Usually there are other symptoms of this as well, which include burning with urination, a strong urge to urinate, pain or discomfort at the end of urination, or small amounts of blood in the urine, as seen in the toilet or on the tissue when you wipe yourself afterwards.
Since frequent urination during pregnancy is so common, women with some of the above symptoms might be tempted to just assume they are normal for pregnancy, but this could be a costly mistake. Due to changes in the anatomy of the kidneys and ureter (the muscular tube that connects the kidney to the bladder), a simple UTI during pregnancy, if untreated, can quickly progress to a life-threatening kidney infection (called pyelonephritis), which can cause fever, severe back pain and vomiting, and can require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous antibiotics. The risks of kidney infection include miscarriage and premature birth, all due to an untreated simple UTI.
Treatment for Frequent Urination During Pregnancy
Unfortunately, even after you give birth, the frequent urination doesn’t slow down for a few days. You’ll still have the need to urinate often as your body rids itself of the excess fluid it gained during the pregnancy and during labor (especially if you had an IV line). After a few days, you should have passed all the excess fluid, enabling you to return to a normal urinating schedule.
During pregnancy, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the frequency of your trips to the restroom. Staying away from caffeinated drinks can help tremendously. Sodas, coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages only increase your need to urinate, so avoid them (which you should be doing anyway). Doing Kegel exercises can also help reduce trips to the restroom. Kegel exercises are known to strengthen the muscles that keep your urethra closed. Plus, they’re great for preparing your body for giving birth. Learn how to do Kegel exercises here. [Note: some doctors advise that women wait until after they deliver to start Kegels, since tightening the muscles around the birth passage could make it more difficult to push out the baby.]
Cutting down on beverages before bedtime can help you sleep through the night. It’s important you provide your body with plenty of fluids in the morning and afternoon hours, but in the evening, there isn’t any reason to pump yourself full of water or juice.
Also, before bed or before leaving the house, use the restroom. Get it out of the way and out of your system. If you have to be in attendance at some event, make sure you know where the bathrooms are located and urinate before the event starts. Always empty your bladder completely. You can do this by leaning forward during urination, and being patient.
If you’re scared you might have an accident, wear a pad or panty liner. No one will know it’s there, and it can prevent an embarrassing moment, especially if you have to cough, laugh, or sneeze in front of others. Plenty of pregnant women wear urinary incontinence pads, but this is not information they volunteer to one another.
Contact Your Healthcare Provider
Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if you have to bring up this issue with your doctor. They understand. You’re not the first expectant mother who has had to deal with frequent urination during pregnancy. Keep your doctor informed of all aspects of your pregnancy, so when there’s a problem, they know your history and can better treat you. Always let them know if there is blood in your urine, if you experience pain or burning when urinating, or if you continually have the urge to go after completely emptying your bladder.