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Your developing baby is going to demand a lot from your body and to make sure that your baby’s growth and development is taking in the right manner, you will have to visit the doctor for regular check-ups. Many tests will be performed during every visit, however, one of the tests that you will need to take at every check-up is a urinary test. This can help detect the level of leukocytes in the urine, making the doctor able to tell you if you have any infections that will need treatment.
What Are Leukocytes in Urine?
Leukocytes are white blood cells that work side by side with the immune system and defend the body from infections and diseases. They appear when there is damage to the kidneys and urinary system and when foreign materials enter the body.
When leukocytes damage or when they are killed while fighting off infections, they are expelled from the body through the urine, signifying a low level of leukocytes in the urine. The average level of leukocytes that should be present in the urine is between 2 to 5 WBCs/hpf. However, if the level of leukocytes rises and goes above 5 WBCs/hpf, it may be a sign of infection or disease and must be investigated.
What Causes Leukocytes in Urine During Pregnancy?
There are many reasons why the number of white blood cells increases in pregnant women, the most common being when there is some sort of infection in the vagina, which if left untreated can develop into something far more serious. Some of the main causes of Leukocytes in urine during pregnancy are discussed below:
1. Urinary Tract Infection
Leukocytes are usually present in the urine if you are suffering from UTI. When a woman is pregnant, there is an increase in the bladder volume, but the tone will be reduced due to the weight of the baby pushing down on it. It is very difficult in this situation to completely empty the bladder, and so the bacteria may never fully leave the system. Instead, it multiplies.
2. Asymptomatic Bacteriuria
When there are bacteria in the uterus, it is called asymptomatic bacteriuria. About 30% of pregnant women may have a bacterial infection in the urinary tract but show no symptoms. These can cause leukocytes to manifest in the urine. If left unchecked, this causes pyelonephritis in pregnant women, and it is because of this it is important that doctors perform a routine urine test for them.
3. Genital Infection
Sexually and non-sexually transmittable infections may lead to the presence of white blood cells in the urine of a person. Some of the infections that can cause leukocytes to appear in the urine of pregnant women are Chlamydia, vaginal yeast infection, bacterial vaginitis, gonorrhoea and genital herpes.
4. Kidney Infections
Kidney infections, or pyelonephritis, develops when urinary tract infection is left untreated in pregnant women. This is a serious condition that must be treated at the earliest to avoid preterm labour or premature rupture of the membranes. Kidney infections can cause leukocytes to appear in the urine and may cause fever, lower back pain and vomiting. Pregnant women often suffer from this more than others as the growing foetus squeezes against the kidney and bladder as it gets bigger.
This is a type of urinary tract infection that leads to the bladder becoming inflamed and causes the number of white blood cells in the urine to rise. The cause of this is bacteria and causes similar symptoms as UTI, but there is also lower back pain and discomfort in the pelvic region. If inflammation is severe, a trace of blood and leukocytes in urine during pregnancy can be found.
Signs and Symptoms of White Blood Cells in Urine while Pregnant
Most often, the signs and symptoms will vary depending on what is causing the rise in leukocyte levels. Some of the main symptoms of leukocytes in urine during pregnancy are:
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Unable to empty bladder
- Foul smelling urine
- Cloudy looking urine
- Lower back pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- A low fever may occur
- Nausea and vomiting
One of the most outstanding causes of an increase in leukocyte levels is due to a urinary tract infection.
1. How To Measure
A urine culture and sensitivity examination should be done to see if any bacteria are present in the urinary system. Your white blood cell count will be taken to help detect any infections that are hidden in the body. Pregnant women are allowed an increase in leukocytes to 5-6 in the field of vision, but this depends on if all other indicators remain unchanged. An increase to 10-20 indicates that there is most likely an inflammation somewhere in the excretory system. If the number goes up to 40-50, then this is an indication that the kidneys have been infected.
2. How To Analyse
If the result of the WBC count is either higher than or lower than the normal count that is needed for your age, then there is most likely an underlying problem. During the first trimester, the test is done every three to four weeks, during the second trimester it is done every two weeks, and by the third trimester, it is done every week. The analysis will require the first urine of the morning to be collected in a jar that has been sterilized to avoid contamination of the sample. Your doctor will also need to know all about your medical history, any medications that you are currently on and your symptoms to accurately identify what is causing the abnormal WBC count. Your WBC will also need to be checked at regular intervals to ensure that the treatment plan you have been put on is working or not.
3. Instrumental Diagnosis
This is usually an ultrasound where the bladder, urinary tract, and kidneys are studied. Any enlargement in the pelvic region will be clearly visible. Ultrasounds can detect the neurogenic bladder, polycystic kidney disease, and obstructive uropathy. A survey monography is also available that will show any change in the contour or positioning of the kidneys. Radiopaque methods are quite popular, and computed tomography can be used, but it does not have any special features or abilities that cannot be provided by an ultrasound.
4. Differential Diagnosis
In this, a clinical analysis of the urine is done where any increase of white blood cells can be seen. These analysis are compared with that of a woman’s general condition and her complaints. An anamnesis is available to help identify the cause of the condition. Sowing is a process that is carried out along with the urine analysis. Here the main pathogen is identified, and the right therapy is selected. Unfortunately, this does not always deliver accurate results. At least 20% of the results are false positives in this research, and so the test must be taken at least thrice before coming to any concrete result.
Effects and Complications
Treatment must commence immediately if you have been found with high levels of leukocytes and the doctors have determined their cause. If, for example, you have been found to have pyelonephritis, your doctors will start you on certain antibiotics that should be taken while carefully following the doctor’s instructions to avoid further complications with the pregnancy.
Eclampsia is another complication that may arise, and it causes a rise in blood pressure. Careful monitoring of your condition during pregnancy can save your baby’s life by avoiding the development of serious complications.
The cause of an increase in leukocytes depends on a person’s condition. For example, if cystitis is a problem, it may turn serious as urination can be very painful. Further development of this can turn into gangrenous cystitis, where the pain will be intense, and there is a complete inability to urinate, putting your bladder and peritonitis at risk of rupturing.
Some infections will leave behind a residue of stone and sand as well. It is highly important to treat any problem at the earliest to avoid some very unpleasant and dangerous complications.
How To Treat Leukocytes in the Urine
There is no fixed method of treating the condition of an increased level of leukocytes in the urine. The treatment will vary depending on an individual’s levels of leukocytes as well as based on the cause of the issue.
1. Natural Disinfectants
If the inflammation is not serious, it can be treated with natural disinfectants and diuretics. Most pregnant women will be advised to drink decoctions of chamomile, black currant, and cowberry. The urine will be encouraged out of the body with these, decreasing the chance of developing more serious infections.
If the inflammation is more serious, antibiotics will need to be administered, but the antibiotics used will need to be safe for your baby as well. The antibiotics and the decoctions will help eliminate the infection and prevent more serious complications in your pregnancy.
If you have an obstruction such as kidney stones or a tumour that is causing the rise in leukocyte levels, you will most probably need surgery to remove the obstruction. Drink plenty of water to try and get rid of the smaller kidney stones, though passing it naturally is quite painful.
4. Sound-waves, Chemotherapy, and Radiation
For larger kidney stones, sound waves can be used to break them up. Chemotherapy and radiation are other options to look at in case of tumours.
Here are some ways to prevent the rise of leukocytes in the urine:
- Go for regular urine tests.
- Drink a lot of water to flush out the bacteria and the toxins from the body.
- Urinate often and regularly.
- Maintain personal hygiene by washing your hands before you use the restroom, as well as by keeping your genitals clean after you have relieved yourself. When wiping, wipe from front to back.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the rise in leukocytes:
1. Can Increased White Blood Cells in Urine Indicate Blood Leukemia?
Yes, an increase in the number of WBC in the urine can indicate the presence of Leukemia, a form of blood cancer. Elevated leukocytes in the urine are used to diagnose Leukemia and Lymphoma.
2. Can Elevated Number of WBCs in Urine Lead to STD Infection?
STDs such as Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia leave traces of elevated quantities of WBCs in the blood which is found through the urine. This is why elevated traces of WBC can be an indication of an STD.
3. Can Leukocytes in Urine Cause Foetal Death If Left Untreated?
There are cases where the rise in the number of leukocytes in the blood are associated with late toxicosis and other rather serious inflammatory problems. Women who have this are plagued with fatigue and increased pressure, and the risk of losing the baby is possible. If the leukocytes esterase in urine during pregnancy and the inflammation is detected on time, then there is no risk, but if left untreated, the child will be at risk, and there are high chances of complications during childbirth.
The most important thing is to identify and treat any rise in levels of leukocytes in the urine. If this is not done, it can have a very negative impact on your health and the life of your unborn child. Rest assured that most often, the abnormal WBC count will be noticed at the earliest as routine urinary tests are a part of the general check-ups for pregnant women. But if treatment is not followed regularly and care is not taken, the situation can worsen. So make sure you don’t miss any of your prenatal doctor’s appointments and follow your doctor’s instructions carefully when given.
Also Read: CBC (Complete Blood Count) Test in Pregnancy