UTIs In Pregnancy: Is It Common And Treatable?

UTIs In Pregnancy: Is It Common And Treatable?

What exactly is a UTI?

Well, UTIs, short for urinary tract infections, occur when bacteria from various sources like your skin, vagina, or rectum infiltrate your urethra and move upwards. Your urinary tract comprises several parts: it starts with the kidneys, where urine is produced, then extends through the ureters to the bladder, where urine accumulates until it's expelled through the urethra.

Types Of UTIs

Cystitis, or bladder infection

This occurs when bacteria settle in the bladder and proliferate, leading to inflammation and those recognizable symptoms. It's the most prevalent form of UTI.

Kidney infection

Bacteria can ascend from the bladder through the ureters and infect one or both kidneys. Also known as pyelonephritis, a kidney infection poses significant risks, especially during pregnancy. It can even spread to the bloodstream, potentially becoming life-threatening for the mother and her baby.

Asymptomatic bacteriuria

Sometimes, bacteria can inhabit the urinary tract without causing any noticeable symptoms. This condition, termed asymptomatic bacteriuria, typically resolves on its own, especially in non-pregnant individuals.

During pregnancy, untreated asymptomatic bacteriuria significantly heightens the risk of developing a kidney infection. Moreover, it's associated with preterm labor and low birth weight, underscoring the importance of routine urine testing during pregnancy.

Why are UTIs more prevalent during pregnancy?

Pregnant women have high risk of all three types of urinary tract infections outlined earlier. This is due to high increased levels of progesterone, a hormone during pregnancy, relax the muscles in the ureters which is a tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder which cause in slowing down urine flow. Additionally, as the uterus expands, it can apply pressure on the ureters, impeding the normal flow of urine.

Furthermore, the bladder undergoes changes during pregnancy, losing some of its muscle tone. This makes it harder to fully empty the bladder and increases the likelihood of reflux, a condition where urine flows back up the ureters towards the kidneys. this makes a physiological changes is twofold in womens body: Firstly, urine takes longer to traverse the urinary tract, providing bacteria with more time to proliferate and establish infections before being push out. Secondly, it becomes easier for bacteria to travel to the kidneys.

Moreover, during pregnancy, urine tends to become less acidic and may contain higher levels of glucose, both of which create a favorable environment for bacterial growth.



What Are The Common Symptoms Of UTI's

Symptoms of a UTI can manifest differently from woman to woman. In the case of a bladder infection, they typically involve:

  1. Pain, discomfort, or a burning sensation while urinating, possibly also during sexual intercourse.
  2. Pelvic discomfort or lower abdominal pain, often localized just above the pubic bone.
  3. Persistent or uncontrollable urges to urinate, even when the bladder contains minimal urine.
  4. Urine that emits a foul odor or appears cloudy.

Given that frequent urination is common during pregnancy, distinguishing between normal urges and those indicative of a UTI can be challenging, particularly if symptoms are mild. If you suspect a urinary tract infection, it's crucial to consult your healthcare provider for a urine test.

Symptoms of a potential kidney infection typically emerge suddenly and may include:

  1. Fever
  2. Chills
  3. Pain in the lower back or side, just beneath the ribs, on one or both sides, possibly extending into the abdomen.
  4. Nausea and vomiting

You may also observe blood or pus in your urine, alongside some of the typical UTI symptoms. If you experience these signs in your body then immediately contact your nearest primary physician.

UTIs During Pregnancy Without Symptoms

UTIs during pregnancy, even without symptoms, can pose risks such as preterm birth and low birth weight. Untreated asymptomatic bacteriuria increases the likelihood of developing a kidney infection by up to 35 percent. However, prompt and proper treatment significantly reduces this risk. To assess the presence of bacteria in your urinary tract, your healthcare provider will conduct urine testing at your initial prenatal visit, regardless of symptoms. A negative result at this stage indicates a low probability of UTI development later in pregnancy.

If the initial test is positive, treatment involves safe oral antibiotics suitable for pregnancy. Completing the full course, typically lasting a week, is crucial for clearing the infection. After treatment, follow-up testing ensures the infection has resolved. If not, alternative antibiotics may be prescribed. Regular urine cultures throughout pregnancy monitor for recurrence. In cases of recurring bacteriuria, continuous low-dose antibiotic therapy may be recommended to prevent further infections.

How To Prevent Risk Of UTI's

There are some of precautions that can preventing UTIs which are:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Drink ample water throughout the day to maintain clear or pale yellow urine, indicating proper hydration.

  2. Respond Promptly: Don't delay urination when you feel the urge, and ensure complete bladder emptying by leaning forward while urinating.

  3. Hygiene Practices: After a bowel movement, wipe from front to back to prevent fecal bacteria from reaching the urethra. Keep the genital area clean using mild soap and water.

  4. Pre and Post-Sex Hygiene: Before and after sexual intercourse, clean the genital area and urinate to help flush out bacteria.

  5. Consider Cranberry Extracts: Some studies suggest that cranberry extracts may lower bacteria levels in the urinary tract and discourage new bacterial growth.

  6. Avoid Irritants: Refrain from using feminine hygiene products like sprays or powders, as well as strong soaps, which can irritate the urethra and genital area, promoting bacterial growth. Douching during pregnancy should also be avoided.