By Korin Miller
When your bladder interrupts your life by making you pee all the time, it can feel like a special kind of betrayal. Spending all that time on the toilet is frustrating, and it might also raise some red flags about your health.
It’s normal to pee anywhere from four to eight times a day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you’re going more than that, here are a few potential reasons why.
- You’re drinking too much water.
Peeing is generally an input/output kind of situation: The more liquids you drink, the more you’ll use the bathroom. If you’re going a lot, you should first take a look at how much water you’re taking in, Tanaka Dune, M.D., a urologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells SELF. “When you drink too much, your body will excrete what it does not need,” she says.
Your water needs are pretty individual, so you might need more or less than others depending on your size, body type, and activity level. With that said, the Mayo Clinic recommends women have around 11.5 cups of fluids a day, including from water, other beverages, and food.
You can tell whether you’re getting as much fluid as you should through the color of your pee. If it’s light yellow or clear, that means you’re drinking enough liquids to adequately dilute the pigment urochrome, which helps to give pee its color. That’s a great sign that you’re well hydrated.
But if your pee is always crystal clear and you feel like you’re spending your life in the bathroom, you may be drinking too much water. This is rarely dangerous, the Mayo Clinic says, but easing up can help reduce your bathroom trips all the same.
- You’re accidentally loading up on diuretics.
Drinks like coffee, soda, and tea can act as diuretics, meaning they may boost your peeing frequency. Diuretics act by increasing the amount of salt and water that comes out of your kidneys, making you pee more in the process. Though beverages like coffee and tea can raise your overall water consumption (and help you make it through the day without your head exploding), lowering your intake might help you pee less often.
Certain medications can also act as diuretics. Some drugs to treat high blood pressure contain diuretics, and some birth control pills like Yaz have drospirenone, a kind of progestin related to the diuretic spironolactone.
- You have a urinary tract infection.
A urinary tract infection happens when bacteria, usually from your bowel, makes its way to your bladder, urethra (a duct connected to your urethra—this is where pee comes from), ureters (the tubes connecting your bladder and urethra), or kidneys, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Most UTIs happen in the bladder, the NIDDK says. In response to the infection, your bladder becomes inflamed and irritated, which can make it feel like you have to go 24/7 even if you don’t actually have much pee in your system.
You can’t clear up a UTI on your own, so you’ll need to see your doctor for antibiotics. Don’t try to wait it out—a UTI can progress into a kidney infection when left untreated, which is typically immensely painful and can even be life threatening.
- You’re pregnant.
In the first trimester, your blood volume increases, so your kidneys have to process excess fluid that winds up in your bladder, according to the Mayo Clinic. That can continue into the second trimester, then your body ups the ante in the third. To prepare for go-time, the baby starts to move down through your pelvis, putting pressure on your bladder, the Mayo Clinic says. Not only will this make you have to go pretty much all the time, you might also start leaking pee when you do things like laugh, sneeze, or lift things. (This is known as urinary incontinence.)
If this is an issue for you, the Mayo Clinic suggests wearing panty liners to avoid soaking your underwear with pee. And if you’re concerned by the amount of leakage, talk to your doctor to make sure it isn’t amniotic fluid (this looks watery or pale yellow, the Mayo Clinic says, so it’s a good idea to have a medical professional make the distinction if you’re unsure).
- You have uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths that can grow in and on your uterus, are the most common benign tumors in women of childbearing age, per the U.S. Library of Medicine. Sometimes these growths make their unwanted presence known by forcing you to pee all the time. This usually happens when a fibroid becomes large and puts pressure on your bladder, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Fibroids can also cause heavy bleeding, painful periods, pain during sex, complications during pregnancy and labor, and even problems getting pregnant (though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that this is very rare).
If you’re experiencing symptoms you think are due to fibroids, see your doctor. There’s a wealth of treatment options, from birth control to reduce pain and bleeding to a myomectomy (surgery to remove the fibroids) to a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus altogether) and more.
- You have an overactive bladder.
An overactive bladder causes a sudden urge to pee that you can’t control. According to the Mayo Clinic, as fluids build in your bladder, nerve signals from your bladder to your brain typically trigger your pelvic floor muscles and muscles of your urethra to relax. This allows your bladder to contract and push urine out. If you have overactive bladder, the muscles in the bladder involuntarily contract, even when it’s not full. “Some women even leak urine after this sudden urge,” Dr. Dune says.
Plenty of things can cause this to happen, including having a neurological disorder like a stroke, a bladder abnormality like a tumor, or excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, among others. The underlying cause determines the treatment, which can include Kegels, medications to relax the bladder, or even Botox injections to partially paralyze bladder muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- You have interstitial cystitis.
This condition is called painful bladder syndrome for a reason, Garrett Matsunaga, M.D., chief of urology at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, tells SELF. Interstitial cystitis essentially happens when your body’s wires get crossed—instead of your pelvic nerves telling your brain you need to pee when your bladder is full, your brain receives that message more often than it should, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Along with a persistent need to pee even if you’re only releasing small amounts, this condition can cause discomfort while your bladder fills up, pain in your pelvis or between your vagina and anus, and pain during sex. While interstitial cystitis isn’t curable, there are ways to try to treat it, like with dietary changes, physical therapy to relieve pelvic pain, bladder training (it’s exactly what it sounds like—you start strategically delaying urination until you’re not going more frequently than normal), medications to relax the bladder and reduce pain, and more.
- You’re eating and drinking things that irritate your bladder.
Your bladder can get irritated, just like you when you’re curled up in bed and hear the call of nature. Coffee, alcohol, tea, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomato-based products, and chocolate can all lead to bladder irritation, according to the Mayo Clinic, although that’s far from a guarantee.
“The thought is that these foods and drinks [can be] acidic, and that irritates the bladder wall,” Dr. Matsunaga says. “This does not happen to everyone.” People with a condition like overactive bladder or interstitial cystitis may be more likely to be affected, Dr. Matsunaga says.
- You have a pelvic floor disorder.
This is an umbrella term for different disorders that result from having a weakened or injured pelvic floor, according to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form a sling of sorts to support the various organs in your pelvis, including your bladder and urethra. There are different kinds of pelvic floor disorders, the most common having to do with pelvic organ prolapse (when pelvic organs drop into the vagina), bowel control problems, and bladder control problems. Pelvic floor disorders that cause frequent urination can have different causes, like childbirth, which can damage the pelvic floor, or aging, which can cause bladder muscles to weaken.
If you suspect you have a pelvic floor disorder, your doctor can help you pinpoint what’s going on, along with the best course of treatment, which can range from Kegels to strengthen the pelvic floor to seeing a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor muscles to using a pessary, which is a device that goes in the vagina to help support pelvic structures, per the Cleveland Clinic.
- You have diabetes.
Having either type 1 or type 2 diabetes can make you need to use the bathroom more often than other people. This happens because excess sugar can build up in your blood, which makes your kidneys work overtime to filter and absorb it, per the Mayo Clinic. When your kidneys can’t handle this extra load, the sugar makes its way into your pee, along with fluids from your tissues—and that makes you need to go more often. If you suspect that you might have diabetes, visit your primary care doctor. They can run lab tests to confirm a diagnosis and help you make a treatment plan if necessary.
- Your bladder just happens to be on the small side.
The average bladder can hold between 1.5 to 2 cups of fluid at a time, and small bladders hold less than that to the point where you may feel the need to pee more than others, Dr. Matsunaga says. While this is a real thing, it’s a less likely culprit behind frequent urination than other causes, he notes.
However, if you suspect your bladder is small and it’s interfering with your quality of life, your doctor can do a test like a cystoscopy, which looks into your bladder with a camera. If you do indeed have a small bladder, they may be able to offer guidance on training your bladder, delaying your urination even when you have to go so you’re eventually only peeing every three or four hours.
If your bladder is constantly trying to be the center of attention, you might want to see your doctor.
Sometimes scaling back on your fluid intake or laying off bladder-irritating food and drink does the trick. But if you try lifestyle tweaks and are still constantly speed-walking to the bathroom, talk to your doctor. They can perform tests to try to figure out what’s going on—and how to fix it.