Urinary problems

Urine carries waste from your kidneys. This waste is stored in your bladder until it's passed from your body through a tube, called the urethra. Common urinary problems include frequent, painful, difficult and uncontrolled passing of urine.

Frequent passing of urine

If you pass urine more often than usual, the cause may be something as simple as having taken in more fluid than you would normally.

It's often associated with being anxious, nervous or excited.

Pregnant women usually have to pass urine more often – this is normal.

Other causes of frequent passing of urine are:

  • a urinary tract infection
  • the side effects of medicines, alcohol and caffeine
  • a disorder of the prostate gland (in men)
  • an inflammation of your bladder or urethra
  • a bladder tumour or stone
  • a vaginal inflammation or infection (in women).


Incontinence (poor bladder control) can take several different forms:

  • Stress incontinence – when urine leaks with increases in pressure caused by sneezing, laughing, lifting or bending over
  • Urgency – when there isn’t enough time to reach a toilet when you feel the urge to pass urine
  • Dribbling of urine – which continues after you pass urine
  • Constant leakage of urine.

For information about incontinence and what can be done about it, visit the New Zealand Continence Association website.

Difficulty passing urine

Difficulty passing urine can include:

  • having a weak flow (so it takes you longer than usual to go to the toilet)
  • having a  flow that stops and starts.

When to see your doctor

If you can’t pass urine at all, you need to see your doctor or go to the Emergency Department immediately.

Also see your doctor if:

  • there is blood in your urine
  • passing urine is painful (for example, a burning feeling and general discomfort in your lower abdomen or urinary pathway)
  • there is any other change in your normal urine pattern that lasts more than a day or two.

Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.

In this section

  • If you have blood in your urine, it’s important you see a doctor to find out why. Find out about possible causes. Read more
  • If you or a family member has a urinary tract infection, you'll need to see your healthcare professional for antibiotics. Learn about the causes, symptoms and treatment. Read more
  • A urinary obstruction (blockage) can be a serious condition. Find out the causes, symptoms and what to do. Read more
  • A urinary catheter is used when a person needs help passing urine. Find out about catheter care at home. Read more
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