I just gave birth, why can't I wee?!
I’m guessing that you’ve spent the last few months running to the toilet, weeing every five minutes and even having to get up in the night to wee. Am I right? That’s because when you’re pregnant, especially in the third trimester, baby’s position and size means they are putting pressure on your bladder. This decreases its volume slightly, meaning that you feel ready to burst a lot sooner than if you didn’t have a baby bouncing about in there.
But now you’ve had your baby, and you’re finding it hard to pee. Feels a bit unfair, doesn’t it? Luckily for you this is a fairly common and fairly short lived side effect of birth for most people.
Did you have a vaginal birth and/or labour for a while?
As your baby moves down during labour and birth there’s a lot of squeezing and pushing going on, which can put pressure on your bladder. Understandably it’s now feeling a bit battered and needs some time to recover! Any internal swelling can also affect your ability to wee, and so can perineal swelling.
Did you have an epidural and/or a Caesarean?
Depending on whether you had an elective, unplanned or emergency Caesarean, the bladder and other organs can take a bit of a battering during the operation. Your doctor may have had to push things out of their usual place to ensure they could get to your uterus and baby safely. Unfortunately this can traumatise or bruise the bladder a little, which means it needs some recovery time of its own.
If you had an epidural or other anaesthetic, this will have also affected your bladder and bowels, meaning your brain doesn’t receive the signal to say that they’re full and need emptying. As the anaesthetic wears off, your sensation should come back.
If you had a catheter inserted (which you will have if you had a Caesarean), this can also prevent your brain from receiving the signals that say when your bladder is full, but as sensation comes back you should be able to pee again.
Some tips for bladder recovery:
Make yourself sit on the toilet at least once every hour, to help your body relearn how to wee.
Keep drinking water - it’s important to stay hydrated.
If you’re worried about any stitches or tears you might have, try leaning forward on the toilet, or running some gentle warm water over yourself (front to back) as you wee.
Check with your midwife first if you have stitches, but sometimes sitting in a warm bath can help everything relax enough to let go.
Go for a gentle walk around the house/ward - same as with getting labour started, gravity helps everything get into place inside you and puts just enough pressure on your bladder to help you wee.
If you’re in hospital and a healthcare assistant or midwife has helped you to the bathroom, ask them to wait outside - they may well have seen your bits during labour but sometimes a bit of privacy is all you need to get going on the toilet!
Signs to watch out for if you can’t wee after birth:
If you have a temperature this can be a sign of infection so it’s best to get checked out.
If you can’t wee at all in the 6-8hrs after a vaginal birth your medical team may want to insert a catheter to help empty your bladder.
If you’re still having trouble weeing 24-36hrs after birth, or you feel urgency to wee but not much comes out, let your midwife know as this can be a sign or a urinary tract infection.
It’s normal to be a little afraid of potential damage to your bits after birth, but please don’t let this stop you from getting help when you need it. Doctors, midwives and health visitors really have seen it all before, so do let them know if things don’t return to normal for you.
Want more Caesarean recovery tips? Click here.
Learn how eating well can help your postpartum recovery here.
And find out how a postpartum doula can support you in those early days after birth here.