UTI during pregnancy: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

UTI during pregnancy: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Here's all you need to know about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of Urinary tract infection (UTI) during pregnancy

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in women and they are also just as common once a woman gets pregnant. UTI during pregnancy is pretty common.

About 2 to 10 percent of pregnant women will experience this condition. Those who have had the infection before or have given birth multiple times are also, especially at risk.

Causes of UTI during pregnancy

A UTI during pregnancy happens when external bacteria find their way into the urethra or urinary tract. Because of the anatomy of a woman’s urinary system, they are more prone to this condition.

As a fetus grows, so too does the pressure it places on the bladder and urinary tract of a mom-to-be. This increase in pressure can cause the trapping of bacteria or the leakage of urine.

What’s more, a pregnant woman’s urine changes in concentration and accumulates hormones and sugar. This can be conducive to bacterial growth. It can also weaken the body’s capability to ward off bacteria.

antibiotics now safe

photo: dreamstime

What are the symptoms of UTI during pregnancy?

If you’re a mom-to-be and you experience some or all of the following symptoms of UTI during pregnancy, contact your doctor immediately:

  1. a burning sensation or painful urination
  2. cloudy urine
  3. blood-tinged urine
  4. pelvic pain or lower back pain
  5. frequent urination
  6. frequent urge to urinate
  7. fever
  8. nausea
  9. vomiting

UTI discharge during pregnancy: Aside from the symptoms stated above, changes in vaginal discharge may also occur when you have a UTI during pregnancy. Aside from frequent urges to pee and a burning sensation when urinating, your vaginal discharge may also increase if you have UTI during pregnancy. 

UTIs in different stages of pregnancy

First trimester

UTI during pregnancy in the first trimester is common. According to an article published by the Everyday Health website, about 41 percent of UTI in pregnancy are diagnosed during the first trimester.

Because it’s pretty common, it is recommended by health providers that pregnant women take urinalysis and urine culture at the first prenatal check-up. Taking a urinalysis and urine culture exam may help you detect symptoms of UTI during pregnancy. 

Second trimester

UTI during the second trimester of pregnancy is more common. As stated in the Everyday Health article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that about half as many women are diagnosed with UTI during the second trimester compared to those who are diagnosed with UTI during the first trimester of pregnancy. 

Third trimester

Women who are diagnosed with UTI during pregnancy in the third trimester are almost half of the number of women that are diagnosed with UTI during the second trimester.

But according to research published in the Archives of Medical Science, as stated in the article of Everyday Health, 80 to 90 percent of kidney infections in pregnancy happen during the second and third trimesters. That is why it is highly suggested to retake urine culture during the third trimester of pregnancy. 

Complications of UTI during pregnancy 

When you are pregnant, your health is extra sensitive than before. Any infection can cause complications to you and your baby’s health. And any health complications can pose danger to your child.

Here are some complications of UTI during pregnancy:

UTI and other infections can increase the risk of premature labor. Untreated UTI in pregnancy can cause a life-threatening illness called pyelonephritis.

This condition may result in kidney damage. Moreover, if the UTI spreads to the kidneys during pregnancy it can also cause anemia, severe infection, long-term infection, and adult respiratory distress syndrome.

Not only that, but it can also cause thrombocytopenia or low blood platelet count, high blood pressure or hypertension, and bacteria in the bloodstream also called bacteremia.

It’s important to look for the symptoms of UTI during pregnancy and consult your doctor right away as soon as you notice any symptoms of it. This is essential so your doctor can recommend treatment to avoid complications for you and your baby.

UTI during pregnancy treatment

antibiotics - UTI during pregnancy

To diagnose UTI during pregnancy, you need to take a urine test which is also called urinalysis and urine culture. Urinalysis is needed to check the bacteria and red and white blood cells in your urine. On the other hand, checking the urine culture is done to know the kind of bacteria you have in your urine.

Once the diagnosis shows that you have a UTI, then your doctor may recommend taking antibiotics for 3 to seven days depending on your condition.

If your condition makes you uncomfortable, some doctors may suggest you start the medication even before you get the diagnostic result, as long as you show symptoms of UTI in pregnancy.

Remember to take only the medication your doctor gave you. Some antibiotics are not safe for pregnant women.

Here are some of the antibiotics that are safe as a treatment for UTI during pregnancy:

  • amoxicillin
  • erythromycin
  • penicillin

On the other hand, the following antibiotics are the ones that you should avoid taking during pregnancy because they can harm your baby’s development.

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Sulfamethoxazole
  • Tetracycline
  • Trimethoprim
  • Primsol
  • Proloprim
  • Trimpex

Furthermore, take note that your symptoms are expected to go away after three days. Even when your symptoms fade, continue taking your medications until the scheduled date your doctor told you to stop.

How can a UTI during pregnancy be prevented?

Though UTIs are easily treated, it is still an infection. Acquiring any type of infection while pregnant poses certain risks to you and your baby, such as premature labor. So it’s important to let your doctor know if you suspect you have the condition, for early intervention.

Here are ways to prevent UTI during pregnancy.

  • urinate often, particularly before and after intercourse
  • refrain from wearing tight underwear that’s not cotton-based
  • don’t wear underwear at all or wear loose underwear at night
  • refrain from douching or vaginal sprays that are too strong
  • Hydrate! Drink lots of water
  • Do not wash genitals with harsh, perfumed soaps
  • Before and after having sexual intercourse, wash your genital area with warm water
  • Avoid using feminine deodorants that may cause irritation.
  • Refrain from wearing pants that are tight.
  • Choose a water-based lubricant when you have sex.
  • After you wash your genitals and butt when you pee or poop, wipe yourself from front to back.
  • Avoid drinking citrus juices and caffeinated drinks.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Besides causing UTI during pregnancy, it can also cause harm to your child.
  • Avoid eating spicy food which can irritate your bladder.

For the longest time, it’s been said that drinking cranberry juice can cure and prevent this condition. But recent research is disproving these claims.

If you suspect you have a UTI, call your doctor to know for sure so you can be given the best course of treatment. Early intervention as well as future prevention can help ensure that you will have a healthy and happy pregnancy.

UTI during pregnancy: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Asymptomatic UTIs

Not all UTIs in pregnancy have symptoms that can be easily detected. During pregnancy, women are also prone to having UTIs without symptoms or in other terms asymptomatic urinary tract infections.

If you have an asymptomatic UTI, it means that you still have significant bacteria in your urine. However, there are no signs or symptoms that can be seen in your urinary tract. But having an asymptomatic UTI does not guarantee safety.

Asymptomatic UTI may eventually turn to symptomatic UTI if left untreated. Worst, it can cause a kidney infection called acute pyelonephritis. That is why it is still important to have a urinalysis during your pregnancy to detect any signs of UTI and prevent it from worsening.

Acute pyelonephritis

Asymptomatic UTI if left untreated may eventually turn into symptomatic and may cause acute pyelonephritis. It is a bacterial kidney infection that may affect pregnant women.

It is important to diagnose and treat acute pyelonephritis because this infection may spread from the urethra and genital area to the bladder and the kidneys.

According to the Healthline article, the reason acute pyelonephritis is more common in pregnant women than in those who are not pregnant is because of the physiological changes that are happening to women during pregnancy. Those changes can interfere with or affect the flow of their urine.

A woman who has acute pyelonephritis may experience high fever, chills, and pain in the lower back. This infection may also cause nausea and vomiting and other urinary symptoms.

If you are pregnant and you have this condition, you may feel the frequent and immediate need to urinate. Aside from that, you may also experience dysuria or pain during urination and hematuria or blood in your urine.

These urinary symptoms can also be noticed in pregnant women with urinary tract infections. This is the reason why you need to tell all your symptoms to your doctor, so, your healthcare provider may identify easier what kind of infection you have.


Additional information from Jobelle Macayan

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