Maybe it’s the ninth inning of a Twins 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 women 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 for many reasons. Below, we’ll review the most common causes, when to see a doctor and how to get help to stop frequent urination.
What is “frequent” urination?
Every woman goes on her own schedule, but generally, peeing 6–8 times every 24 hours is normal. More than that – including peeing a lot at night (more than once) – and you may have frequent urination.
While they’re often mentioned together, frequent urination isn’t the same as incontinence, which is involuntary urination that can result in leakage. But frequent urination can be just as inconvenient to your day-to-day life. Besides the disruption to your routines and activities, constant trips to the bathroom can also feel distressing, especially if you’re not sure of the cause.
Frequent urination may only be just that, or it may appear alongside other symptoms. Regardless, understanding why you have to pee so often is the first step toward getting relief. Often, customized treatment can help stop frequent urination and let you get back to life on your own schedule.
What causes frequent urination in women?
Habits, medical conditions and certain life circumstances can all cause you to spend too much time in the bathroom. Here are twelve common causes for frequent urination in women:
1. Too many fluids
If you’re continually hydrating, your body gets rid of what it’s not using, and this will naturally result 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 require.
2. 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 have more frequent trips to the bathroom. In addition, some medications used to treat other conditions, like high blood pressure, can have diuretic side effects.
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 a burning feeling when you pee, discolored urine and constantly feeling like you have to pee (even after peeing). You may also feel pressure or discomfort in your back or around your pelvis. Fever is another symptom of a UTI.
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 just what it sounds like: Your bladder empties more often than it needs to, which causes you to pee too much. 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 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 frequent urination is a common complaint.
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. 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 really 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, like during menopause
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 squeezed. Reduced estrogen levels can also cause you to have to pee often at night.
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 muscle weakening. Many times, it can be hard to tell if weakened pelvic floor muscles are causing your frequent urination. A urogynecologist will be able to tell you whether this is the case.
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 which your body is trying to get rid of. This helps to explain why frequent urination is an early sign of the disorder. Other symptoms like tiredness, constant thirst or hunger, a dry mouth or tingling in your hands or feet often also appear.
When should I see a doctor about my frequent urination?
If you’re pretty sure that overhydration, too much caffeine or pregnancy aren’t behind your frequent urination – or if your need to go is interfering with your daily life – it’s definitely the right time to schedule a visit with an OB-GYN. Because a variety of things cause a frequent urge to pee, it’s important to talk to a doctor about your concerns and get an accurate diagnosis.
If your frequent urination is accompanied by other symptoms – painful urination, feeling like you still have to pee even after peeing, smelly or cloudy urine, bloody urine, abdominal pain, back pain, fever, chills, nausea, unusual vaginal discharge or anything else out of the ordinary – you’ll want to make an appointment or go to urgent care as soon as you can to get started on a treatment plan.
How do I stop frequent urination?
Your doctor will emphasize treatments that address your underlying frequent urination cause. The goal is always to improve your quality of life and work toward stopping frequent urination.
Basic remedies include lifestyle changes. A doctor may suggest the following:
- 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 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.
What are the next steps?
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 your frequent urination, you’re that much closer to a peaceful night’s sleep, uninterrupted jog around the lake or worry-free time doing whatever you like – on your own terms.