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.

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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.

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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.

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