In women, urinary retention—the inability to empty the bladder—may be caused by a sagging, out of place, or weak bladder; an obstruction in the urinary system (such as inflammation or bladder stones); or damaged pelvic nerves caused by events such as childbirth, pelvic radiation, or extensive pelvic surgery. It can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) and can lead to urinary tract infections, bladder damage, or kidney disease. Other medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis and herniated discs can also cause urinary retention.
Women with acute urinary retention—such as the retention that can occur after surgery—cannot urinate at all, even with a full bladder. They may have a bloated lower abdomen and discomfort or pain. This is an emergency situation that requires prompt medical attention. Women with chronic urinary retention may be able to urinate, but may have trouble starting the flow of urine or emptying the bladder completely, or may urinate often or have the frequent urge to urinate. Even after urinating, they may still feel like the bladder is full and may dribble urine between bathroom trips.
A catheter may be used to drain urine from the bladder in acute cases (such as following surgery before the effects of anesthesia have worn off) as well as in some chronic cases. Surgery may be necessary to repair bladder support problems that cause chronic urinary retention. Talk to your doctor about available treatment options.
The preceding answers are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for individualized professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this website. Never rely on information on this website in place of seeking professional medical advice.