Frequent urination is one of the most common symptoms that pregnant women experience. It is certainly a symptom no woman enjoys, especially when it disrupts your sleep during the middle of the night or when you are out traveling. These symptoms generally start early in the first trimester (around week 5), may get better in the second trimester, but then become particularly worse late in third trimester.1
When you’re not pregnant, your bladder can hold up to a pint of urine.2 During the first trimester of pregnancy, your uterus enlarges and begins to push on your bladder. A compressed bladder holds much less urine. In addition, hormonal changes during pregnancy cause blood to flow more quickly through your kidneys, thus producing more urine. As a result, you may find yourself running to the bathroom more often than usual. In the second trimester, the uterus expands upward into the abdominal cavity and tends to put less pressure on your bladder.3 Then, in the last few weeks of third trimester, the baby flips over, dropping his head down into the pelvis and right on top of your bladder. Frequent urination almost always goes away after you give birth.4
Although frequent urination during pregnancy can be one of the annoying pregnancy symptoms, it does nothing to harm you or your unborn baby. It fact it helps to clean out the toxins from your body in a quick and efficient manner. As long as frequency isn’t accompanied by signs of infection, it’s completely normal.1
There are some cases however when frequent urination may signal an underlying problem. If you’re also experiencing burning, pain, fever, or a change in the odor or color of your urine, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI).4 UTIs are quite common during pregnancy. If left untreated, they can develop into serious kidney infections. A kidney infection during pregnancy may contribute to preterm labor or your water breaking too early (“premature rupture of the membranes”). It is important that you contact your care provider as soon as possible if you suspect you have a urinary tract infection. Fortunately, most UTIs can be cleared up easily with antibiotics in a few short days.2
There are some things that you can do to make your trips to the bathroom a little less frequent if you wish: 1) Avoid drinks that have a diuretic effect such as tea and coffee. 2) If you are having trouble with going to the bathroom during the night, then avoid drinking anything a few hours before bedtime so that you don’t have to get up as often during the night.4 Just to be safe, use night-lights to keep you from stumbling during your nocturnal trips. 3) When using the bathroom, lean forward when you urinate to empty your bladder completely.4 If you are not able to empty your bladder fully, it will feel full a lot sooner. This is more common in the later stages of pregnancy.
Although you should drink less before your bedtime to avoid frequent visits to the bathroom during the night, you should be certain to drink plenty of fluid to keep hydrated during pregnancy (at least eight glasses a day).1 Insufficient fluids could cause you to feel light-headed and it could also lead to a urinary tract infection.2
Furthermore, during the last month of pregnancy, some women begin to leak a little urine when they cough, sneeze, laugh, or move suddenly. This is called “stress incontinence” and is perfectly normal. The growing uterus, putting pressure on the bladder, creates this condition. Practice your Kegel exercises regularly to help strengthen pelvic floor muscles and to support the urinary sphincter. Remember to empty your bladder before exercising and to wear a light pad to help catch any leaking.5
Lylla Ngo, M.D.
Thomas Hale, Ph.D
1. Murkoff HE, Eisenberg A, Hathaway SE. What to expect when you're expecting. Rev. and updated. ed. London: Pocket Books; 2002.
2. Riley L. You & your baby pregnancy : your ultimate week-by-week pregnancy guide. 2nd ed. ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley; 2012.
3. Blott M. The day-by-day pregnancy book. London: Dorling Kindersley; 2009.
4. Harms RW, Wick M, Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic guide to a healthy pregnancy. 1st ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books; 2011.
5. Stone J, Eddleman K. The pregnancy bible : your complete guide to pregnancy and early parenthood. 2nd ed. Buffalo, N.Y.: Firefly Books; 2008.