For the fifth time in about 20 minutes, I locked the door, turned on the tap and tried to ‘go’. Nothing happened. Nothing happened yet again.
I was starting to panic, I really needed to wee but I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t come. I’d just had my twelve week scan so my bladder was full (usual practice for the early scans) and I was waiting to speak to the consultant because my last baby was VERY big.
I left the cubicle flustered and confused. My stomach was bloating and uncomfortable, my kidneys were beginning to ache and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
Back in the waiting area I Googled “pregnant, can’t wee”. There were a few forum board posts about difficulty urinating because of pain, and went on to explain that urinary tract infections are really common in pregnancy. These symptoms didn’t seem like the problem I was having, but at least I was already at the hospital.
The consultant called me through and seemed surprised by how much discomfort I was in – the pain was making it difficult to walk. I think she thought I was making a big fuss out of nothing and offered to catheterise me, whilst making the process sound as horrible as possible. By this point I was so desperate, I eagerly agreed.
About a minute in, the Dr’s face began to soften and she started to giggle. “We’ll need another bedpan,” she said through poorly disguised sniggers.
A second bedpan was brought and she stopped trying not to laugh. By the end of it, one bedpan was full, another was half full. I found it pretty hilarious too, in an embarrassing sort of way. The doctor seemed really impressed and told me she’d collected around 1125ml, the most she’d seen in her career (I feel like a bit of a braggart as I declare this, oddly enough!)
I was tested for infections, given the all clear and a new explanation.
What I was experiencing was a rare and embarrassing ailment caused by the pregnancy itself. It’s called pregnancy related urinary retention: a combination of the position of the newly expanding uterus putting pressure on the bladder (making the release muscle not want to ‘release’), and a surge of progesterone (as a result of the pregnancy) meaning the muscles are harder to control.
Some women wet themselves during pregnancy, I was not so lucky.
The solution was to not allow the bladder to get too full, so after giving the doctor a new dinner party anecdote, I was sent on my way, with instructions to wee every two hours, even throughout the night.
By the second night, my bi-hourly alarm was getting harder to adhere to and I ‘snoozed’ it on one occasion to allow myself an extra half hour. This was the beginning of my demise.
My bladder had shut off again and I wasn’t able to empty it.
I was told if I rang the ward I’d bypass A&E and be admitted for 24-48 hours with a fixed catheter and they’d review my case.
I rang the ward, the nurse I spoke to told me that admitting me without passing through A&E could not be done and made me go through ‘the correct channels’. A five hour wait ensued and because the doctor didn’t want to treat me until he’d spoken to the obstetrics/gynae ward I had to have morphine for the pain, rather than be catheterised again.
Once I was on the relevant ward, I must say, my treatment was great, a senior doctor even told me that my wee was a ‘lovely colour’ (see, here I am boasting again!).
I spent a pretty miserable bank holiday weekend with a fixed catheter and made my visitors sit on the side of the bed where my big bag of wee wasn’t visible (despite it being a lovely colour).
After almost two days I was discharged and told if it happened again I would have to self-catheterise (a horrific notion!). I had to go back to my hourly loo breaks and wait for my womb to move a bit more as that would alleviate the problem.
As it happened, the problem cleared up on its own, as predicted at about 18 weeks of pregnancy.
I felt the need to share this embarrassing story because when I was experiencing it, there was nothing about it anywhere. I could find the odd medical journal article on it, but there were no real-life cases.
I imagine the combination of it being both rare and embarrassing explain the lack of first person narrative on it, so I thought I’d over-share, in the hope I reassure any other mothers-to-be-who-cannot-wee that it usually gets better on its own and in my case it did.