All About Frequent Urination in Pregnancy

You'll spend a lot of time in the bathroom while expecting. Learn what causes frequent urination during pregnancy, with tips for easing the urge and preventing urinary tract infections.

Woman On Toilet Holding Toilet Paper
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For many women, frequent urination is one of the first signs of pregnancy. Hormones stimulate your kidneys to expand and produce more urine, which helps your body get rid of extra waste more quickly. And as your baby gets bigger, his weight may press on your bladder, so you'll need to go more frequently. Read on to learn more about this common pregnancy symptom.

What Causes Frequent Urination in Pregnancy?

If you experience frequent urination in early pregnancy, you can thank hormonal changes that increase urine production. Your uterus, which is normally the size of a fist, also grows and stretches to accommodate your baby. The enlarged uterus puts pressure on your bladder and contributes to the urge to pee, explains Richard H. Schwarz, M.D., obstetrical consultant to the March of Dimes

Most women get temporary relief from frequent urination in the second trimester. That's because your uterus will rise higher in the abdomen and away from your bladder. But don't expect this relief to last long, since this symptom will probably make a comeback in the third trimester. The baby drops lower in your pelvis in preparation for delivery, which puts pressure on your bladder yet again.

How to Manage Frequent Urination

If frequent urination at night disturbs your sleep too much, try cutting back on fluids after 4 p.m. (make sure you drink the necessary six to eight glasses of water a day before then). Also avoid coffee, tea, cola, and any other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine can increase urination.

Keep a soft night light in the bathroom so you don't have to blind yourself in the middle of the night with bright overheads—and for safety's sake, light your path from bed to toilet with nightlights as well.

Dealing with Persistent Urine Leakage

During pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, you may also leak urine whenever you laugh, cough, sneeze, lift something, or exercise. This is called stress incontinence and it's partly caused by the pressure of your uterus on your bladder.

You may be able to prevent leakage by doing Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body). To do a Kegel, tighten and then relax those muscles as if you're trying to stop your urine stream. Try keeping the muscles contracted for about 10 seconds, 10 to 20 times in a row, at least three times a day.

If you're leaking urine, panty liners may keep you a little happier until the problem goes away. Report any persistent leakage to your practitioner, just in case it's amniotic fluid instead of urine.

Frequent Urination and Urinary Tract Infections

Although the never-ending urge to pee is annoying, you should never ignore it. Holding your urine can lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI). Pools of urine in the bladder are breeding grounds for bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines, such as E. coli. Less commonly, a UTI may be caused by a bacterium called Group B strep (GBS), which is a more serious condition that can make your baby very sick. It requires oral antibiotics during pregnancy and intravenous antibiotics during labor and delivery to keep your baby safe.

Typical symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Burning and pain during urination
  • Bloody urine
  • A tender lower abdomen

Contact your healthcare provider if you develop any of these symptoms. Additionally, your healthcare provider will probably recommend a urine culture early in pregnancy, and again during the third trimester. That's because about 5 to 10 percent of pregnant women have symptomless UTIs. Without treatment, these can result in health problems for you and for your baby, such as a kidney infection, low birth weight, or a premature baby. Your doctor may also check your urine for bacteria at each prenatal visit using a dipstick, which works the same way as a home pregnancy test.

UTIs will be treated with a pregnancy-safe antibiotic. Because these infections sometimes recur, your provider may also do a monthly urine culture. If the infection returns, you may need to take antibiotics for the rest of your pregnancy.

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