Every day, our nurses and attorneys receive calls from expectant mothers with concerns about symptoms they’re experiencing during their pregnancy. They’re curious if their symptoms are normal, and they wonder what their next steps should be. Patients should always visit a medical professional with concerns like these and receive appropriate care for maternal-fetal conditions and illnesses that can arise during pregnancy. We kickstarted the Pregnancy Spotlight Series, a monthly column that highlights specific pregnancy health concerns, to empower patients in contacting their medical providers. Today, we’re focusing on Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) During Pregnancy. A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection of any part of the urinary system: kidneys, bladder, urethra, or ureters.
What Are the Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection?
The most common symptoms of a bladder infection are burning with urination, having to urinate frequently, the absence of vaginal discharge, and significant pain. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection range from mild to severe, and in healthy women, last an average of six days. Some women experience pain in the pubic bone or lower back. In addition to the classic symptoms of a bladder infection, women with a kidney infection may experience flank pain, fever or nausea and vomiting. Rarely, the urine may appear bloody or contain visible pyuria.
Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection include the following:
- Pain or burning during urination
- A feeling of urgency during urination
- Blood or mucus in the urine
- More frequent urination
- Cramps or pain in lower abdomen
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Chills, fever, or sweats
- Leaking of urine (incontinence)
- Waking up from sleep to urinate
- Change in amount of urine
- Cloudy urine
- Pain, pressure, or tenderness in the area of the bladder
- Back pain, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting may occur if bacteria spreads to the kidneys
It’s important that anyone who has signs and symptoms of a UTI contact their doctor as soon as possible. Up to 7% of pregnant women will have a UTI without any symptoms. This is referred to as asymptomatic UTI. Asymptomatic urinary tract infections can still lead to preterm birth and other risks. Doctors and medical professionals are required to screen for UTIs during routine prenatal appointments.
How Can I Prevent UTIs?
UTIs are very common, so it is the standard of care for doctors to test for them throughout pregnancy. For educational purposes, here are a few ways urinary tract infections may be prevented:
- Urinating as soon as you feel you need to and completely emptying the bladder when you urinate
- Avoiding antiseptic creams, strong soaps, feminine hygiene sprays, douches, and powders
- Changing underwear every day
- Drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day
- Avoiding bathing for longer than 30 minutes at a time or more than twice a day
- Wiping from front to back after using the bathroom
- Wearing cotton underwear
- Eating a healthy diet
What Causes UTIs During Pregnancy?
Urinary Tract Infections are more commonly acquired during pregnancy because, as the uterus grows in size, it pushes on the bladder and can block the bladder from properly draining. Furthermore, the hormone changes occurring during pregnancy can give bacteria an easier chance to travel up the urinary tract. Other causes of a urinary tract infection include bacteria from the bowel that gets into the urinary tract (a problem that is solved by wiping from front to back), sexual intercourse that transfers bacteria into the urinary tract (a problem that is solved by urinating before and after sexual intercourse), and Group B Strep (a bacteria which your doctor will test for in late pregnancy). Some women have a higher chance of getting UTIs if they have any of the following:
- Maternal diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Sickle cell disease
- A history of UTIs
- Previous urinary tract surgery
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting UTIs during the period between week 6 and week 24 of pregnancy.
How Will I Know If I Have a Urinary Tract Infection During Pregnancy?
UTIs can be detected with urine cultures or urinalysis. Bacteria in the urine is a sign of a urinary tract infection. Your doctor should test your urine routinely at your prenatal appointments. These are called urine tests, and they are used to test for myriad different conditions during pregnancy, including diabetes, dehydration, preeclampsia, kidney infection, and bladder infection. If bacteria is found in the urine, your doctor will likely test for a urinary tract infection and use a urine sample to figure out what type of antibiotics will be necessary.
How Are UTIs Treated During Pregnancy?
Urinary tract infections are usually treated with antibiotics that are safe for both mother and baby. To learn more about antibiotics and pregnancy, click here. It is always best to discuss the risks and benefits of any medications with your OB-GYN before taking them.
Will My UTI Affect My Baby?
UTIs should be monitored and treated with antibiotics during pregnancy because they can lead to kidney infections and preterm delivery. Kidney Infections require immediate medical attention. Kidney infections can lead to low birth weight or early labor.
Disclaimer: The information presented above is intended only to be a general educational resource. It is not intended to be (and should not be interpreted as) medical advice. If you have questions about the topic, please consult with a medical professional.