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The urinary tract is made up of organs, tubes and muscles that make, store and move the urine out of the body. Kidneys have the job of filtering your blood to make urine. This urine produced in the kidneys reaches the bladder through the ureters, two thin pipes connecting the bladder and the kidneys. Bladder is the organ of your body which holds in pee till you can find a bathroom to let it all out. The bladder muscles contract and let the urine out of the body. This is done through a pipe called the urethra. Muscles around the urethra called sphincter muscles are clenched tight and have to relax in order to let the urine out.

What seems so simple is in reality a really long and complex process. With just a small malfunction the entire system can collapse, which can cause urinary issues.

Due to life experiences such as pregnancy, childbirth and menopause that do not happen to men, women are affected by urinary issues twice as much as men.  

What is Urinary Retention in Females?

A huge myth is that urinary problems are inevitable with aging or that only the elderly suffer from urinary issues, which could not be further from the truth. Urinary retention is the inability to pass urine as you normally would due to certain issues. It affects people of all ages and genders. It is treatable, and you should go to a doctor immediately without feeling any shame or embarrassment.  They will help you with medications to treat urinary retention in females and males.

What are the types of Urinary Retention in Women?

There are two types of urinary retention in women:

  • Acute urinary retention – this type of urinary retention could prove to be life threatening. It lasts for a short duration of time. Acute urinary retention females experience when their bladder is at its limit but you still are unable to pee. 

  • Chronic urinary retention – this type of urinary retention develops over a long period of time. You can empty the bladder but not all the way.

Related Read - Acute & Chronic Urinary Retention and its treatment

Symptoms of Urinary Retention in Females?

Symptoms of urinary retention in females depend upon the type of retention they are suffering from.

Symptoms of acute urinary retention are as follows:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen 

  • Bloating 

  • An intense and urgent desire to urinate 

  • Being unable to fully empty your bladder despite trying several times

Chronic urinary retention symptoms in females could look like:

  • Pressure in your abdomen due to a bladder which feels full

  • Pain in your abdomen

  • Having to rush to the bathroom too often

  • Difficulty in emptying your bladder fully 

  • A weak urine flow

What are the causes of Urinary Retention in Females?

You might experience urinary retention if your bladder has sagged or moved out of its normal position, a condition called cystocele. This happens when the wall between a woman’s bladder and vagina has weakened. It droops into the vagina in an unnatural position. Or due to rectocele, a condition where the bladder sags or is moved from its position because the lower part of the colon has sagged. A nerve disease or nerve damage too can cause issues with your bladder function.

Obstructions in the urinary tract or nerve problems can interfere in the signals sent by the brain to the bladder. When the nerves aren’t working as they should, the brain fails to receive the message that the bladder needs to be emptied.  Even if you know that your bladder is full, the message doesn’t reach the other units of the urinary tract that it’s time to empty the bladder, such as the bladder muscle which pushes the urine out or the sphincter muscle that it has to relax. A weakness in your bladder muscle can also lead to urinary retention.

Nerve Disease or Spinal Cord Injuries – The nerves can get damaged due to many causes such as a vaginal birth, pelvic trauma or injury, advanced diabetes, strokes, multiple sclerosis, etc.

Structural abnormalities - Some people are born with structural defects in the urinary tract which can keep them from releasing urine properly. Such cases can only be helped by surgical procedures which help correct these structural abnormalities.

Infections - A urinary tract infection (UTI) causes swelling, inflammation and irritation in the parts of your urinary tract. If the urethra becomes inflamed and shuts due to a UTI, you may experience urinary retention.

Surgery – Many patients suffer from urinary retention after a pelvic surgery. Anesthesia is given to the patients to prevent pain and to block pain signals. At the same time, fluid is given to make up for the blood loss that happens. The results in a bladder that is full but a nervous system that is unable to give pain signals. The drugs may wear off after the surgery but the urinary retention continues.

Bladder stones and constipation are other reasons for why you might be suffering from urinary retention.

Can Removal of Catheter Cause Urinary Retention in Women?

A urinary catheter is used to keep your bladder empty while you are healing after surgery. Urinary retention after catheter removal females experience is due to the surgery and medications. It changes how well the bladder functions. This could cause you trouble peeing.

Urinary retention treatment in females

Urinary retention or post void residual urine in female treatment can be sought from a urologist or a urogynecologist. Before diagnosing the problem, you will be asked to do a number of tests such as a cystoscopy, bladder scan, urine sample test, X- ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, urodynamic tests and your doctor might also want to know your medical history and record.

Related Read - Home Remedies for Urinary Retention

Medication for urinary retention in females includes:

Your healthcare professional may treat your urinary retention by prescribing:

  • Anti- biotic 

  • Alpha-blockers  

  • 5-alpha reductase inhibitors 

  • A combination of a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor and an alpha-blocker

Symptoms of urinary retention are pretty easy to spot. Don’t wait for things to reach a critical stage. If you’re having trouble urinating, see a doctor immediately.