Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) during Pregnancy

Urinary tract infection (UTI), as the name indicates, refers to a bacterial infection of any part of the urinary tract including the kidneys, ureters, bladder and the urethra. The risk of this infection is more in pregnant women and extends from week 6-24. About 8-10% of pregnant women may get UTI and they tend to reoccur more frequently. In most of the cases, UTIs can be treated successfully when detected early. If left untreated, the bacteria may gain access to kidneys resulting in a variety of complications including low- birth weight, pre-term labor, and even sepsis. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this infection is important for a healthy pregnancy.

Causes

Urinary tract infection is caused by bacteria that gain access to the urinary system. During pregnancy, the growing fetus may apply pressure on the urinary bladder and urinary tract, trapping the bacteria in these regions. Changes like urethral dilation after 6th week and increased bladder volume also help to slow down the urine in the urinary tract, allowing the growth and multiplication of bacteria. Bacterial growth is also encouraged by increased urine concentration and presence of certain hormone and sugar in the expectant mom’s urine.

Symptoms

UTIs may remain asymptomatic in some cases. When present, some of the common symptoms of include:

  • Pain during urination
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain and tenderness in the bladder
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting

If UTI becomes kidney infection, the symptoms include back pain, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Treatment

UTIs are treated with antibiotics. Your doctor will recommend a 3-7 day course of antibiotics to bring the infection under control. Most of the UTIs can be prevented by

  • Keeping oneself well hydrated (6-8 glasses of water)
  • Avoiding the intake of caffeine, sugar, fruit juices and refined foods
  • Avoiding tight-fitting clothes
  • Wearing clean and dry panties
  • Avoiding the use of strong soaps, powders, and douches

When should you call the doctor?

Inform your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms along with UTI

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Contractions

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