September 24, 2021

Why Is It Hard for Some Women to Empty Their Bladders?

The short answer from a women’s health practitioner

Close-up of an individual holding their torso in apparent pain

Q: Why is it hard for some women to empty their bladders?

A: It can be a very uncomfortable and unsatisfying feeling to have the sensation of needing to pee, but not being able to completely relieve your full bladder. This is called ‘incomplete bladder emptying’ or ‘urinary retention’ and it’s very common in women. This occurs when the muscles of your bladder are not able to squeeze properly in order to empty your bladder.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Two problems are usually responsible for a woman’s sensation that she can’t empty her bladder, or void, completely. One is dysfunction of the bladder muscle and the other is a blockage/obstructive process (such as prolapse or a previous incontinence sling).

You may find it helpful to reposition yourself or lean forward on the toilet to help relax and empty your pelvic floor muscles while urinating. Specialized pelvic floor physical therapists can teach women to train their pelvic floor muscles to relax more completely during voiding.

Alternatively, women who have pelvic organ prolapse (when an organ in the pelvis slips down from its normal position and bulges into the vagina) can simply reduce the prolapse bulge with their fingers to more fully empty their bladder. We can also fit people with a pessary to help alleviate symptoms.


There are solutions to this frustrating problem. Consult with your doctor to find what approach is right for you.

Certified nurse practitioner in Urogynecology and Pelvic Floor Disorders Abigail Anderson, CNP.

Related Articles

Sign for public restrooms at airport
July 17, 2019
What Your Bladder Is Trying to Tell You About Your Health

These 3 changes may be clues to other problems

Natural antibiotics, pills and herbs, displayed on bamboo spoons on wooden table.
December 5, 2023
Why You Shouldn’t Self-Treat With ‘Natural Antibiotics’

Natural doesn’t mean they’re safe or effective

Female swimmer in the water at edge of a pool
December 1, 2023
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Physical activity and weight management can minimize your chances of getting the disease

Two people standing in the cold.
November 29, 2023
10 Colds Not To Catch This Winter

The flu, RSV, COVID-19, pneumonia and more typically circulate during cold weather months

Parent breastfeeding baby on bed, against the headboard.
November 27, 2023
Looking for Foods To Increase Your Milk Supply? Think Big Picture

No single food will increase your milk, but an overall healthy diet will help

Parent uses manual baby aspirator to open up nasal passages of baby.
November 22, 2023
Prevent Phlegm in Your Baby’s Throat With a Nasal Aspirator

Keeping your baby’s airways clear of mucus helps with breathing and feeding

Two different vaccines and needles displayed in foreground.
November 22, 2023
Which Vaccines Can You Get at the Same Time?

Getting routine vaccinations together can save you time and may be more effective

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 22, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try