Maybe it’s the ninth inning of a baseball game during girls’ night out. Maybe you’re just about to fall asleep. And then, you’ve got to pee. Again.
Sometimes it feels like the urge to pee strikes at the worst moment, sending you to the bathroom when you’d rather be anywhere else. This happens to all of us occasionally. But if it’s happening to you over and over, it may seem like your bladder controls you, rather than the other way around.
Frequent urination can affect you in many different ways. We’ll review the most common causes, ways to find relief, and how to know when it’s time to see a doctor.
What is frequent urination? And how many times should you pee in a day?
Frequent urination means needing to urinate more times than usual in a typical day. Every woman goes on her own schedule, but generally, peeing 6-8 times in 24 hours is considered normal for someone who is healthy, and isn’t pregnant. If you’re going more often than that, you may be experiencing frequent urination.
Frequent urination can happen on its own and isn’t always a sign of a health problem. But if it appears along with other symptoms, like fever or a burning sensation when you pee, your doctor will want to consider possible links to other pelvic health conditions. Either way, understanding why you have to pee so much is the first step toward getting relief. And often, personalized treatment can help stop frequent urination and let you get back to life on your own schedule.
Waking up during the night to pee
Waking up at night to pee more than once is considered frequent nighttime urination – also called nocturia – and it can happen with or without frequent daytime urination. Even though peeing more than one time per night becomes common as we age, it’s important to determine the cause so you and your doctor can identify the best treatment.
What’s the difference between frequent urination and incontinence?
While they’re often mentioned together, frequent urination isn’t the same as incontinence, which is involuntary urination that can result in leaking. But frequent urination can be just as inconvenient to your day-to-day life. In addition to disrupting your routines and activities, constant trips to the bathroom can also feel distressing, especially if you’re not sure of the cause.
What causes frequent urination in women?
Factors like age, habits, medical conditions and certain life circumstances can all cause you to spend too much time in the bathroom. Sometimes frequent urination can be normal and temporary – for example, if you’re pregnant. In other cases, it’s a symptom of another health condition and may require a treatment plan with your doctor. Here are 12 common causes for frequent urination in women:
1. Drinking too many fluids
When you’re continually hydrating, your body gets rid of what it’s not using, which naturally results in peeing more often. Your hydration needs will differ depending on your activity level and environment. But if you’re peeing frequently, you could simply be drinking more liquids than you need.
Especially if you’re having trouble peeing too often during the night, limiting how much you drink before bed can help.
2. Consuming alcohol, caffeine or other diuretics
A diuretic is something that makes you urinate more frequently than normal. You’re probably familiar with common diuretics like alcohol (beer, wine or liquor) and caffeine (coffee, tea or pop). Artificial sweeteners can also act as diuretics. So can acidic foods and drinks, like those that contain citrus fruits or tomatoes.
If you consume any of these regularly, you’ll likely make more trips to the bathroom. In addition, frequent urination can be a side effect of taking certain medications to treat other conditions – like those to control high blood pressure.
3. A urinary tract infection (UTI)
Most women have at least one urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their lives. UTIs happen when bacteria or something else infects parts of your urinary system, which includes your bladder, urethra and kidneys. Besides frequent urination, signs of a UTI include fever, a burning feeling when you pee, discolored urine and constantly feeling like you need to pee (even after peeing). You may also feel bladder pressure or discomfort in your back or around your pelvis.
With vaginitis, your vagina or vulva becomes inflamed and sore. There are several reasons for this common condition – in most cases, some sort of infection is the cause. Along with genital pain and discomfort, frequent urination can be another telltale sign of vaginitis. You may also feel burning or itching when you pee. A vaginal discharge that’s white and thick, gray and fishy-smelling, or yellowish-green and foamy could be present, too.
5. Overactive bladder (OAB)
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a completely different condition, and it’s just what it sounds like: It feels like you have to pee more often than you need to, resulting in more trips to the bathroom. It can affect anyone, but it’s more common among elderly people (though not a typical part of aging). There can be a variety of underlying causes, and sometimes there’s no cause at all. Besides frequent urination, another common sign of OAB is a sudden, urgent need to pee immediately.
6. Interstitial cystitis (IC)
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is when the muscles in and around your bladder become irritated. The exact cause isn’t known, but the condition affects more women than men. Symptoms may come and go, and their intensity varies from person to person, but pressure in the lower abdomen and frequent urination are common complaints.
With IC you also typically urinate small amounts and often feel like you still have to pee even after peeing. You may feel chronic pain or pressure in your pelvis and abdominal region, a symptom responsible for IC’s other name: painful bladder syndrome (PBS).
7. Bladder stones
Similar to kidney stones, bladder stones appear when naturally occurring minerals in your urine join together to form small, hard clumps. They tend to be more common in men, but they affect women, too. Besides having to pee often, you may experience burning when you urinate, along with discomfort in your abdominal region.
It’s a well-worn cliché, but it actually is very true that pregnant women generally need to pee more frequently than usual. An expanding uterus puts pressure on the bladder, which in turn causes the bladder to empty more often. This is a regular part of pregnancy, and if you don’t have any other symptoms, you can expect your bathroom schedule to return to normal a few weeks after birth.
9. Stress and anxiety
Frequent urination can sometimes be a response to feelings of worry or nervousness. It’s not clear why, but it may involve your body’s natural fight or flight reaction to stress. If you’re experiencing anxiety in your home life, work life, social life or anywhere else, finding ways to effectively manage stress may help decrease your urination frequency.
10. Decreased estrogen
You’ve probably heard of estrogen as the female sex hormone. But estrogen also plays a role in supporting the sides of your bladder. That means if your estrogen levels are low, like during menopause, you may experience more frequent (and more urgent) urination as your bladder feels full. Reduced estrogen levels can also cause you to have to pee often at night.
This also means that frequent urination can be a sign of menopause – which happens around age 50 for most women. In fact, decreasing or low estrogen is the cause of several common menopause symptoms. The good news is there are treatment options for low estrogen – for both menopausal and non-menopausal women – such as hormone therapies.
11. Weakened pelvic floor muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles hold up many of the organs in your urinary system, including your bladder. If these muscles weaken, organs can slip slightly out of place and lead to more frequent urination. Vaginal childbirth is one way the pelvic floor muscles can become strained and start to lose their strength. Aging may also lead to pelvic floor muscles weakening.
If weakened pelvic floor muscles are causing your frequent urination, your primary care doctor or OB-GYN can work with you to understand your symptoms, make treatment recommendations and, if needed, connect you with a urogynecologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing pelvic floor conditions).
Frequent urination can be a sign of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, particularly if you produce a lot of urine when you pee. With diabetes, your body can’t regulate sugar levels properly. As a result, there’s often excess sugar in your system that your body is trying to get rid of, which helps to explain why frequent urination is an early sign of the disease. Other symptoms include tiredness, constant thirst or hunger, dry mouth, or tingling in your hands or feet.
Other symptoms to watch out for that are similar to frequent urination
If your frequent urination is accompanied by other symptoms, you’ll want to make an appointment or go to urgent care as soon as you can to get started on a treatment plan and make sure you aren’t experiencing a more serious condition. Some of these symptoms include:
- Painful urination
- Feeling like you still have to pee even after peeing
- Smelly or cloudy urine
- Bloody urine
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Anything else out of the ordinary for you
When should I see a doctor about my frequent urination?
If you’re pretty sure that your frequent urination isn’t being caused by overhydration, too much caffeine, or pregnancy – or if your need to go-go-go is impacting your quality of life – it’s definitely the right time to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or your OB-GYN. Because a variety of things can cause a frequent urge to pee, it’s important to talk to a doctor about your concerns and get an accurate diagnosis.
How to stop frequent urination
Frequent urination can often be improved, and even stopped, with the right treatment. When you talk with your doctor, they’ll recommend treatments that address the underlying cause of your frequent urination. The goal is to work toward reducing your trips to the bathroom and improving your quality of life.
Home remedies for frequent urination
There are several home remedies you can try for frequent urination. A doctor may suggest the following to improve your symptoms:
- Avoiding drinking fluids before bed
- Cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and acidic foods or beverages
- Doing pelvic floor exercises (like Kegels) to help build your pelvic muscle strength and health
- Trying bladder retraining techniques, such as peeing at fixed intervals that gradually increase
Your doctor may also prescribe medication to treat an underlying condition or to specifically address an overactive bladder.
Next steps for finding relief from frequent urination
No matter the reason, frequent urination doesn’t have to take over your life. Answers are only an appointment away.
Because once you know what’s causing it, you’re that much closer to a peaceful night’s sleep, an uninterrupted jog around the lake, or worry-free time doing whatever you like – on your own terms.