Are You Urinating Too Often? 12 Causes of Frequent Urination in Women
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If you’ve been finding yourself taking more trips to the bathroom than usual, read this guide to discover the most common reasons for excessive urination in women.
Urinating is a natural part of life and your body's way of getting rid of wastes and extra water it doesn't need to function. But feeling the urge to pee frequently can get in the way of daily activities and be a significant source of embarrassment. Frequent urination in women at night is common, as well as frequent burning urination and abdominal pain that accompanies the heightened need to pee.
If you've been finding yourself taking more trips to the bathroom than usual, read this guide to discover the most common reasons for excessive urination in women. But before we dive into those, here is some information about what urinating too often really means and how it's diagnosed.
How often is frequent urination?
Because everyone's body is different and urination isn't a topic that comes up in casual conversation, many women wonder how often is frequent urination and what causes frequent urination in females. Studies show that the average woman urinates approximately six to eight times in a 24-hour day. If you are running to the bathroom more than eight times per day, this could be a signal that something is going on with your body that needs attention.
Diagnosis of frequent urination
Most women know their bodies well enough to know when the urge to pee frequently becomes a problem. But after seeking medical attention, there are tests that experienced physicians can conduct to determine the reasons for excessive urination. Doctors typically begin an office visit by asking women with frequent urination issues a series of questions, such as these:
- How long have you been experiencing frequent urination?
- How much in fluids do you typically drink per day?
- What prescription and over-the-counter medications do you take?
- Are you experiencing other symptoms in addition to needing to urinate often?
After getting a better idea of a woman's symptoms and lifestyle habits, the doctor may take a urine sample to test for possible infections. In some cases, a doctor may also order a cystometry, which measures bladder pressure, to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
What causes frequent urination in females?
There are many different causes of frequent urination in females, but here we will highlight and describe some of the most common causes. We'll start with some low-risk causes that are very treatable and work up to more high-risk causes for which frequent urination is a symptom of a serious disease.
1. Drinking Excess Fluids
The simplest explanation for frequent urination is often the correct one. It makes perfect sense that the more fluids that you put in your body, the more fluids will need to come out. This is especially true if you are drinking excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages of alcohol. Also, if you add artificial sweeteners to your drinks, frequent urination symptoms may worsen. The standard advice for daily fluid intake is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses, but some people require more or less than this depending on their level of activity, medications taken, and existing health conditions.
2. Urinary Tract, Kidney, and Bladder Infections
One of the most common causes of frequent urination is a urinary tract infection, or UTI. More than half of women experience one or more UTIs in their lifetimes, many of which occur by a woman's early 20s. UTIs are commonly caused by bacteria getting into the urinary tract from sexual intercourse or improper wiping while using the toilet. However, the frequent burning urination associated with a UTI can also occur during pregnancy, in women with immune system disorders, and from simply holding the bladder for a prolonged period of time. A specific type of UTI is a kidney infection that develops in the bladder or urethra and moves to the kidneys. If you are taking antibiotics for a UTI but your symptoms are not improving, you may have a kidney infection. Accompanying symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and blood in the urine. Most bladder infections are caused by bacteria, and these are a type of UTI. Bacteria can enter the bladder through stool and from other areas of skin through the urethra. Because women's urethras are shorter than men's, females are more prone to bladder infections and experience frequent urination.
3. Low Estrogen Levels
A woman's estrogen levels can be lower than normal for a variety of reasons, including genetics, hormone imbalances, eating disorders, chronic kidney disease, menopause, and excessive exercise. Women with low estrogen levels are also more prone to UTIs because of the thinning of their urethras. Once a woman stops getting her period, her body stops making estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that helps to line the bladder. When it is no longer being produced, menopausal women may experience more urgency and frequency in their urination. This is also a common cause of frequent urination in women at night. Vaginal atrophy is a condition where a woman loses vaginal tissue and estrogen. This can occur due to age or if the ovaries are surgically removed. This is also an example of a condition that is not directly related to the bladder but that affects the bladder nonetheless.
4. Certain Medications
Few medications come without a risk of side effects, and frequent urination is a common side effect that women experience. Medications that can have this effect include muscle relaxants, sedatives, and diuretics. Diuretics, for example, are water retention relievers that are often prescribed to treat high blood pressure. These medications are designed to get rid of excess water in the body. Therefore, they commonly make women need to urinate more often. If frequent urination becomes too much of an issue in your daily life, it may be time to speak with your doctor about changing your medications or their dosages.
Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that is another one of the reasons for excessive urination in women. Types of vaginitis are yeast infections, trichomoniasis, and bacteria vaginosis. Women often experience an unusual odor, itching, and discharge with this condition as well. To diagnose vaginitis, a physician will conduct a physical examination, note the characteristics of vaginal discharge, and have the pH of vaginal secretions tested. This condition is most common among women between the ages of 15 and 44, and the typical treatment is antibiotic medications.
6. Pregnancy and Post-Childbirth
Women who are pregnant also tend to need to urinate more often. This is because the babies they are carrying cause the uterus to expand and put extra pressure on the bladder. Frequent urination during pregnancy is very common and typically not a cause for concern unless accompanied by other unexplained symptoms. Even after a baby is born, frequent urinate symptoms may continue. Women who have given birth vaginally in the past are at a greater risk of frequent urination. Giving birth in this way is known to make the pelvic floor weaker, and the pelvic floor is the body part that holds the bladder up and in place. This affects some women with children more than others.
7. Anterior Prolapse
This condition occurs when the tissue between the vaginal wall and bladder stretches and weakens causing the bladder to extend into the vagina. Chronic constipation, excessive coughing, and heavy lifting can all lead to this. In addition to frequent urination, women with this condition may feel like they can never fully empty their bladders or have urinary leakage during sex. Also known as a cystocele, treatment for this condition may involve implanting a supportive device into the vagina, estrogen therapy, or surgery to lift the prolapsed bladder back up into place.
8. Bladder Stones
Masses of minerals that form in the bladder are bladder stones, which can form when a woman can't empty her bladder. Frequent burning urination, lower abdominal pain, and blood in the urine is common with this condition. You may be able to pass some small bladder stones naturally with some pain, but larger stones may require surgery.
9. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Many people mistake frequent urination caused by an STD with a common UTI. Chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea are common STDs that can cause women to urinate more often than normal. Oftentimes, people don't associate frequent urination with their sexual health. However, many STDs are asymptomatic in the beginning, which means that a change in urination may be the only early warning sign. The best way to rule out STDs as a cause for urination issues is to get tested regularly, especially after having unprotected sex or having a new partner. Untreated STDs can cause major long-term complications, but many types are highly treatable in the early stages.
Frequent urination in women can be caused by both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is most associated with frequent urination in high volumes. This symptom occurs because an excess of sugar causes additional fluids to move through the kidneys when the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels properly. This symptom typically subsides when you get your blood sugar under control. In addition to frequent urination, diabetes patients often experience loss of bladder control and urinary tract infections. If diabetic neuropathy develops and causes nerve damage in the body, the effects may be noticed in the kidneys as well and affect urination.
11. Bladder Cancer and Radiation Treatment
While urine containing blood is a more common symptom of bladder cancer, some women with this condition also feel the need to urinate more often. If a tumor is present in the bladder, it takes up space that could otherwise be filled with urine, thereby leading to an increased need to pee frequently. Not only can cancer cause more frequent urination, but the treatments for cancer can cause this as well. For example, radiation is often used to treat cancer and can cause the side effect of frequent urination. This is especially true if the radiation therapy is targeted at the pelvic area.
12. Spinal Cord Diseases and Injuries
Bladder problems are common among multiple sclerosis patients and include urgency of urination, an overactive bladder, and a bladder that does not fully empty. Diet modifications and nerve stimulation procedures may be able to help patients control these issues. Other neurological conditions are closely associated with frequent urination in women too, especially if a spinal cord injury is involved. In healthy women, messages are sent from the bladder to the brain when the bladder is full. But with a spinal cord disease or injury, these messages may not be sent or received.
When to contact a health care provider
Needing to relieve the bladder more often than usual for just a day may not be a major cause for concern. But if the urge to pee frequently persists for multiple days or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is likely time to seek medical care.
These are some of the symptoms to watch for when you have frequent urination. If any of these symptoms are present, contact your doctor to have the issue checked out and to determine the reasons for excessive urination.
- Back pain
- Fever and chills
- Discolored or bloody urine
- Uncommon fatigue
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MPH in 1998 from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. Dr. Rothschild was a health services researcher at Brigham and Women with a focus on patient safety, quality improvement and information technology. More recently he was the Clinical Device Director for Partners Healthcare System integrating biomedical devices and physiologic monitors with the enterprise electronic health record.