According to experts, about 10 percent of expectant moms will get a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point during their pregnancies. However, if a UTI is caught early it should be easy to treat with antibiotics. If left untreated, about 25 percent of asymptomatic UTIs develop into kidney infections, which can be potentially life-threatening for mother and baby.
What is a UTI?
Your urinary tract system encompasses your urethra, bladder, ureters (the tubes between the kidneys and the bladder), and kidneys. An infection occurs when bacteria gets into this system and multiplies. Most UTIs are bladder infections and aren’t serious if they’re treated right away.
What causes UTIs during pregnancy?
Pregnancy doesn’t cause UTIs – after all, 1 woman in 5 will develop a UTI in her lifetime – but the physical changes that take place during pregnancy can make you more susceptible to an infection. Higher levels of the hormone progesterone decrease the muscle tone of the ureters, causing them to dilate and slowing the flow of urine.
Your enlarged uterus can also prevent you from emptying your bladder completely when you urinate, and this leaves a pool of urine in which bacteria can multiply.
What are the symptoms of UTIs?
Some pregnant women do not experience any symptoms at all; they have what’s called asymptomatic UTIs. Your obstetrician should screen for asymptomatic UTIs at your first prenatal appointment and perhaps subsequent visits, too. If you have a symptomatic UTI, you might experience any one or combination of these symptoms:
– Urinary urgency, meaning a quick and sudden urge to urinate
– Pain or a burning sensation with urination
– Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
– Bloody urine
– Pain in the pubic bone area
Complications of UTI in Pregnancy
If left untreated, UTI may develop into a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) and sepsis. Kidney infections can indeed harm your unborn child and lead to effects such as low birth weight and early labour. However, if diagnosed and treated early, it should not harm your unborn child.
The good news is that most UTIs are easy to treat, even when you’re pregnant, according to Dr. Anil Kumar, Senior Consultant Nephrologist. Although there are some medications that pregnant women must avoid, most antibiotics are safe.
Any obstetrician will know which antibiotics to avoid, and the choice of antibiotic depends on a woman’s allergies and what trimester of pregnancy she is in.
There is no foolproof way to prevent urinary tract infections, but there are several preventive measures that can be taken to help minimize your chances of getting one.
– Practice good hygiene. Wipe from front to back after you urinate to prevent the spreading of bacteria.
– Stay hydrated. Urinating is an effective way of clearing germs from the bladder and urethra. Try to drink about eight 8-ounce servings of liquids a day.
– Urinate frequently. Go when you feel the urge to go, and spend the extra few minutes to be sure you have emptied your bladder completely.
– Eating a healthy diet