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Urinary tract infection during pregnancy

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Women during their first trimester are more susceptible to having urinary tract infection. UTI cause lot of discomfort, however, with proper measure it can be prevented as well.

Types of UTI

  • Urethritis – infection of the urethra
  • Cystitis – infection of the bladder
  • Pyelonephritis – infection in the kidneys
  • Asymptomatic bacteriuria- bacteria are present in your urine, without any symptoms

Of these three types, the infection most commonly occurs in the bladder and urethra and may move to the kidneys later.

Symptoms of UTI during pregnancy

Common symptoms of infection in the bladder and urethra are:

  • Pain and burning during urination and sexual intercourse
  • Pressure and pain in pelvis
  • Low grade fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal and frequent urge to urinate
  • Smelly and cloudy urine

The symptoms of kidney infection are more serious and they include:

  • Pain in ribs and lower back
  • High fever with chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood and pus in urine

Causes of urine infection during pregnancy

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UTIs are caused by bacteria. During pregnancy you are at high risk because the uterus enlarges due to which the bladder often doesn’t empty completely while urination. As result the bladder often refluxes and the urine travels back to the ureter. The urinary tract then becomes a favourable breeding ground for bacteria due to retention of urine for a longer duration.

Another reason is- high levels of progesterone further affect contractions of the uterine muscles, which slow down excretion of urine. This gives bacteria lot of time to multiply. If the infection is not treated, it travels to the kidneys.

One can also contract UTI from sexual intercourse and faecal matter due to unhygienic practises.

Pregnant women who are diabetic are more vulnerable to UTI because presence of sugar in urine is conducive for bacterial growth.

Complications of UTI in pregnancy

UTIs considerably make you feel unwell during pregnancy. If it has progressed to kidney infection, then you may be at risk of preterm labour and giving birth to low-weight baby.

Diagnosis of UTI during pregnancy

Usually doctors conduct urine tests during pregnancy to rule out for infections. Otherwise, you must tell your doctor on experiencing the aforementioned symptoms. The diagnostic tests involve urinalysis and urine culture to confirm presence of bacteria.

Treatment of UTI during pregnancy

UTIs can be effectively managed with antibiotics. You need to complete the dosage and your doctor will test you post treatment to ensure that the infection has been cured.

Women who get kidney infections are retained in hospital for treatment. Intravenous fluids and antibiotics are administered to treat the infection. Apart from that, your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, etc. as well as your baby will be carefully monitored.

The tenure of hospitalization will depend on the severity of the infection.  

Can UTI be prevented during pregnancy?

The answer is “yes”. Take the following precautions in this regard:

  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily
  • Practise hygiene- use separate tissues while wiping your back and front. This will protect your urethra from contracting UTI through stool.
  • Rinse your genital area with gentle soap and water
  • Clean yourself before and after having intercourse. Use condoms
  • Avoid using perfumed personal care products like sprays, lotions, tissues, etc.

UTIs can be treated. Nonetheless, precaution is the key.  Take care of you and your baby by listening to what your doctor advice during this crucial phase.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 27, 2015