My Postpartum Urinary Retention Experience

My Postpartum Urinary Retention Experience
It’s been a year since I gave birth for the second time, and a year of suffering in silence.

I did everything I could to avoid another c section like I had with my first. By the time it was over I wished I had a c section because something that I never even thought could happen after giving birth happened. Something nobody seemed to know was apparently common (according to the hospital) after birth but something nobody talked about. Unfortunately, this is something women dont talk about after giving birth but it happens to so many women. So many woman have suffered and are suffering in silence.

I had a c section the first time round and I did not want a long recovery second time round. I did everything I could to avoid having to have a c section, hypnobirthing classes, etc. I spent months googling trying to find somebody else going through the same thing, just one person. The hospital told me it was very common, so why was nobody talking about it. Why is everyone suffering in silence?

After giving birth your told amongst other things that you have to wee before you can leave the hospital. The first time I gave birth I didn’t realise how important this was, it just seems like a normal every day thing that everybody can do. You may be tempted to just lie, you may think you just don’t need to go right now, and you’ll be able to go when you get home. I just wanted to get home to Charlie, luckily, I’m a terrible liar and the midwife knew I hadn’t been. 3 jugs of water and 24 hours after delivery I still couldn’t wee. I sat on the toilet for what seemed like hours, just trying to focus, deep breathing, running the tap, imagining the sea, but nothing happened. It was like my body had forgotten how to wee. The midwife catheterised me and emptied 2 litres from my bladder. I was told I couldn’t go home and that I would have to try again tomorrow, so I continued to drink water, continuously and tried to pee, a lot, but still nothing happened. My bladder was full, but I couldn’t wee. So in went the catheter again!  

I was sent home with a catheter and a bag strapped to my leg, which didn’t really fit under any of my clothes so I was stuck in pjs for two weeks. All of this on top of stitches, and just everything else that goes with giving birth and a newborn baby!

After going through labour, all the examinations, and heads poking down there. You just want some privacy and time to relax. The last thing you expect after giving birth is for more examinations, and having tubes inserted into you! To stay. After two weeks of carrying this bag around with me, I went back for a ‘trial without catheter’ where they remove the catheter, and you have to drink as much as you can in an hour and then you have to sit on a toilet which measures how much you can wee. I mean at this point, it was getting comical, I did these three times, two weeks apart and each time, nothing came out. They then re-inserted the catheter and sent me home. Each time I was told one day you’ll just be able to wee. I was thinking HOW? I was sceptical. I thought I’d never be able to wee again. After three ‘trial without catheters’ I was taught to ‘self catheterise’ which meant I didn’t have to keep one in continuously, but I had to put the tube inside my urethra every 3-4 hours! I’m not going to lie, the first time I tried this it went in the wrong place, and I felt rather stupid that the nurse had to draw a diagram to show me where the urethra was!

The first time I tried this at home I managed to get the tube in the correct place, woohoo! but ended up weeing all over the floor. I thought I’d never get the hang of it! They gave me a mirror which I had to use, and it was just a very awkward process. It is also not nice to wee standing up! I don’t know how men do it! And Charlie was always coming in and saying mummy! You’re not supposed to wee standing up you’re a girl! How could I explain to a 4 year old when I didn’t understand it myself?

I haven’t even really mentioned Jesse, my happy new baby boy who the whole time I was also taking care of like any new mother looks after a new born.
This is just a quick summary of my experience and I could go into all the details of issues I had. As you can Imagine, I had to self catheterise 4-6 times a day, with a full time job, two children whilst also running a business.
There were times when I would forget to take catheters out with me, the anxiety of getting low/ running out of catheters, the pain, the water infections, the questions and judgement for using the disabled toilet. All whilst just trying to get on with normal new mum life.
After 6 months, I was able to wee a little bit. The first time I screamed, I’ve never been so happy to do such a basic thing and then eventually it became more and more, and now, I can wee again. I still have issues and if I am feeling anxious then I struggle.

The main point of me sharing this is because I want to open the conversation, and break the silence, I want new mums to have somewhere to go to be able to talk about these things, and know that your not alone, and you’ll get through it.

If I knew this was something that happens then at least it wouldn’t have been such a shock and such a confusing time, not knowing why, and not understanding why people aren’t talking about it not knowing who else is suffering in silence and not having anybody to talk to or share the experience with.

I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time, but for various reasons, I talked myself out of it. I thought, nobody would be interested, I was also told that it wasn’t interesting, I thought people would think it was weird, or that I was exaggerating. But if someone had spoken up about it then I wouldn’t have felt so alone. So If I speak up, somebody out there is hopefully going to feel better. So if your l suffering out there, send me a message, im happy to talk.


  • Jade

    Hello, I also went through this after my second birth. Emergency C with first and then natural with second I couldn’t wee after giving birth, after 4 days of catheter In catheter out I discharged myself and had to have a catheter strapped to my leg for 2-3 days at home and then went back, I saw a bladder specialist which luckily she was visiting from another hospital she scanned my bladder, said I think when you are home you will be more relaxed I too had to self catheter after having a wee and record how much was left in my bladder and phone my results in a weeks time. Luckily mine didn’t go on for long like yours but absolutely traumatic at the time it put me off having a third baby. Although as I write this 7 years later I am now feeling like there is a baby shaped void, do I risk going through it all again or should I be happy and content that I have two healthy boys. I just know now my boys are older they would be amazing with a baby brother or sister.
    I do hope you are ok now, I completely understand how you felt and everyone I talked to didn’t seem to know what I was on about or had never heard or experienced it. Xx

  • M

    It is very comforting to read this. I’m seven weeks postpartum and am self catheterizating. This is the first I’m seeing (after non stop googling) any one going through a similar ordeal. A few days ago I was able to pee a bit and was ecstatic but am very eager (and anxious) to be able to pee normally. Thanks for sharing!

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