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Pregnancy and UTIs
Anyone can get a urinary tract infection (UTI), but starting at about the sixth week of pregnancy, an expectant mother has an increased UTI risk with UTIs being the most common bacterial infections seen in women and during pregnancy.
Usually, a UTI is not too serious and easily treated by a doctor with a prescription antibiotic. But, if left undiagnosed and untreated, a UTI could become a kidney infection which is serious and needs to be managed right away, especially if you’re pregnant.
Why? Because a kidney infection during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor and/or low birth weight – both things that put your infant’s wellness at risk.
For your health and your baby’s health, here’s information to help you better understand UTIs and kidney infections during pregnancy including how to recognize them and how to help prevent them.
Why UTIs are Common in Pregnancy
Pregnant women are more likely to get UTIs because of:
Hormones and the immune system – During pregnancy, hormones cause changes to the urinary tract that make it more susceptible to infection. Additionally, a woman’s immune system is just not as strong during pregnancy. In fact, a pregnant mother is considered “immunocompromised” and more likely to get an infection, in general.
Pressure on the bladder – That baby bump, especially as it grows, can push on the bladder – sometimes blocking urine flow and making it harder for a pregnant woman to completely “void” and be pee-free. Urine that sticks around, stagnant in the bladder, is more likely to lead to an infection.
Urine changes – Up to 50% of pregnant women experience glycosuria or sugar in the urine due to pregnancy-related changes in kidney function. Sugar can encourage bacterial growth, thus increasing UTI risks.
Hygiene challenges – Let’s face it, as a baby grows and a mom’s belly grows, it gets harder and harder to know what’s going on “down there.” Physical hurdles to proper (but gentle) genital hygiene can increase chances that potentially UTI-causing bacteria are hanging around.
What to Watch For
Pregnant or not, if you experience any of the symptoms listed here, talk to your healthcare provider. The only treatment for a UTI or kidney infection is a doctor-prescribed antibiotic.
If you’re pregnant, or think you could be, make sure your healthcare provider is in-the-know because, as we’ve mentioned, UTIs can be more serious during pregnancy and, importantly, certain antibiotics are safer for pregnant mothers (and their babies) than others.
As always, consult your healthcare professional before starting any new medications or supplements, particularly during pregnancy or if breastfeeding.
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that looks cloudy
- Strong smelling urine
- Pelvic pain
Kidney Infection Symptoms:
- Back, side (flank), or groin pain
- Abdominal pain
- Throwing up or upset stomach
- Weakness or extreme tiredness
- Frequent urination
- Strong, persistent urge to urinate
- Burning sensation or pain when urinating
- Pus or blood in your urine
- Urine that smells bad or is cloudy
UTI and Kidney Infection Prevention Tips
Now that you know some of the reasons why UTIs and kidney infections are more common in pregnancy and what to watch for, here are tips to help you maintain your urinary health – for your own comfort and well-being as well as that of your growing baby.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day.
- Limit processed foods, fruit juices, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in your diet.
- Urinate as soon as you feel the urge and try to empty your bladder completely each time.
- Wash your hands before and after using the toilet.
- Gently wipe yourself from front to back after toileting. Do not rub, but make sure you are dry.
- Wear clean cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting clothing. Change out of damp clothes promptly.
- Avoid “feminine” deodorants, douches, strong soaps, powders, and sprays.
- Take showers instead of baths and use gentle liquid soap to avoid possible transfer of bacteria from bar soap to your urinary opening (urethra).
- Wash your genital area with warm water before sex.
- Empty your bladder shortly before and after sex.
- If you use a sexual lubricant, choose one that is water-based.
Ready to learn even more about UTI prevention and urinary health? Read our other Cystex blogs.
- Alto WA. No need for glycosuria/proteinuria screen in pregnant women. J Fam Pract. 2005 Nov;54(11):978-83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16266604
- Urinary Tract Infections During Pregnancy. American Family Physician website http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0201/p713.html. Accessed May 1, 2017.
- Urinary Tract Infection During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/urinary-tract-infections-during-pregnancy/. Accessed May 1, 2017.
- Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnancy, Treatment and Management. Medscape website http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/452604-treatment. Accessed May 1, 2017.
- What if I Get a UTI When I’m Pregnant? WebMD website http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/pregnancy-urinary-tract-infection. Accessed May 1, 207.