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Frequent Urination in Women

What is frequent urination?

Frequent urination is the need to urinate more than you normally would. The urge can strike suddenly and can cause you to lose control of your bladder. It can feel uncomfortable, like your bladder is extremely full. This is also referred to as having an overactive bladder. Doctors consider urinating every two hours or more to be frequent urination.

The key to treating frequent urination is addressing the underlying cause. Read on to learn more about frequent urination and how it’s treated.

What causes frequent urination?


A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common cause of frequent urination. This happens when bacteria enters the bladder through the urethra. It is estimated that 50 to 60 percent of women will experience at least one UTI in their lives. One-third of women will experience one before the age of 24 that’s severe enough to require antibiotics.

Women are more at risk for a UTI than men because their urethra is shorter. Bacteria have less distance to travel before they can infect the urinary tract and cause symptoms.

Common causes of a UTI include:

  • improper wiping after using the toilet, which will expose the urethra to E.coli bacteria
  • sexual intercourse, which can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract
  • use of antibiotics that eliminate “good bacteria”

An overactive bladder is another common cause of frequent urination. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an estimated 33 million women have an overactive bladder. Overactive bladder is usually a collection of symptoms that can lead to frequent urination. These include:

  • urinary urgency, or the sudden urge to urinate, caused by muscle contractions
  • urge incontinence, or loss of bladder control
  • nocturia, or the need to urinate at least two or more times a night.
  • urinary frequency, having to go at least eight times a day

There are several causes for an overactive bladder that can include:

  • injuries
  • conditions affecting muscles, nerves, and tissues
  • estrogen deficiency caused by menopause
  • excess body weight that places extra pressure on the bladder.

Excessive caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol may also irritate the bladder walls and can worsen frequent urination symptoms.

You asked, we answered

  • I’ve been having abdominal pain and pressure when I urinate for a few weeks. Also, when I urinate it feels like my bladder is still full. A urine culture was normal. What could be causing this?- Anonymous
  • When you urinate the bladder never fully empties, about 10-15 mL are left behind. Anything more than this though may cause issues and can be considered urinary retention.

    The stability of your pelvic floor muscles may have a part in preventing the bladder from fully emptying. Multiple childbirths, pelvic surgeries (cesarean delivery for example), or nerve damage can cause the pelvic floor to weaken.

    Schedule an appointment with your general practitioner to talk about what other medical conditions could be contributing to this, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. Most importantly, talk to them about what medications you’ve taken recently, including those that are over the counter. Antihistamines, decongestants, and even anti-inflammatories can cause urinary retention.

    - Mark R. LaFlamme, MD

What are the symptoms?


Your symptoms will depend on the cause of your frequent urination.

UTI symptoms

UTIs can develop anywhere in the urinary system, but they most often occur in the bladder and urethra. They’re more common in women than men because women have a shorter urethra. This allows bacteria to travel more easily to the bladder.

The early symptoms of a UTI include:

  • needing to urinate frequently
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • strong-smelling urine
  • lower abdominal pain

As the infection progresses, you may experience:

  • fever
  • chills
  • loss of bladder control
  • nausea

Overactive bladder symptoms

Frequent urination is a symptom of an overactive bladder. Other symptoms include:

  • inability to postpone the need to urinate
  • leaking urine
  • waking up multiple times at night to urinate, known as nocturia

Diagnosis and testing


Your doctor will perform tests to determine what’s causing you to urinate frequently. They'll ask you some questions such as:

  • When did this symptom begin?
  • How often do you urinate?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?

Your doctor will most likely ask you for a urine sample and check it for bacteria and blood. If the test is negative, you’ll likely need to get an abdominal or pelvic ultrasound to check for anything abnormal in the bladder.

If the ultrasound test is inconclusive, your doctor may order more invasive tests, such as a cystoscopy, to check for tumors or obstructions.

Treatment for frequent urination


Treatment for frequent urination depends on the cause. Your doctor will first treat the primary disease responsible for frequent urination, such as diabetes. If an infection is at fault, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for getting rid of the infection.

Medications that control the muscle spasms in the bladder can help reduce urinary incontinence, or loss of bladder control. Your doctor also may suggest doing pelvic exercises, such as Kegels or bladder retraining exercises, to help delay urination.


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese form of healing that has been used to treat illness for centuries. One study reported that acupuncture could help with frequent urination and an overactive bladder in women. Manipulating specific acupuncture points can potentially ease urinary incontinence and frequent urination.

Preventive measures


You can take some steps to reduce your likelihood of developing frequent urination. Your best defense is to stop smoking and maintain a healthy weight. You can also avoid certain foods and drinks closer to nighttime that are known to increase the likelihood of nocturia. Examples include:

  • alcohol
  • citrus juice
  • coffee
  • tea
  • tomatoes and tomato-based products

Constipation can also contribute to frequent urination by putting pressure on the bladder, so increase your fiber intake to maintain regularity.

Also, have your doctor instruct you on the proper way to perform Kegel pelvic exercises. These can strengthen your pelvic floor.

If you develop symptoms of frequent urination, see your doctor to be checked for a urinary tract infection or other medical conditions.

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