Protein in Urine During Pregnancy

Protein in Urine during Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body undergoes many changes, some of which you would not have expected. It is important to know what changes in the body are expected and normal and which ones are abnormal and need medical attention. This will help you to be better prepared and have a safe and healthy delivery.

What Does Proteinuria in Pregnancy Mean?

During pregnancy, it is normal for the urine to contain traces of protein. However, an increased rate of protein discharge can be an indication of kidney dysfunction or stress and infection in the body.

Proteinuria is a condition where an excess amount of protein is discharged in urine and a loss of more than 300mg protein is a sign of the condition. Urinalysis is the test which is performed to analyse urine constituents.

Types of Proteinuria

Proteinuria is of two types:

  1. Chronic proteinuria:

    This is a condition which is present even before the pregnancy. Chronic proteinuria results from a pre-existing kidney problem.

  2. Onset proteinuria:

    Onset proteinuria develops during pregnancy and not before. It is mostly caused due to a condition called preeclampsia which is also a pregnancy disorder characterized by an onset of high blood pressure and impact on body organs.

Why Do You Need to Test for Protein in Urine During Pregnancy?

A test for protein in the urine during pregnancy is important as it helps to determine and investigate any damage to the kidney or other complications which may have arisen during the pregnancy. Discharge of protein can be an indication of a more serious problem and hence diagnosing the presence of protein in urine is important.

Causes of Protein in Urine When Pregnant

Following are the causes of protein passing out with urine during pregnancy:

  1. Preeclampsia :

Under this condition, proteinuria occurs after twenty weeks of being pregnant. Symptoms of preeclampsia include hypertension and high blood pressure, headaches, vomiting, abdominal pain and blurring of vision in case of severe preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia

  1. Eclampsia :

Accompanied by seizures along with preeclampsia, eclampsia is an obstetrical emergency that warrants immediate medical attention.

  1. HELLP Syndrome :

The HELLP syndrome (where HELLP stands for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet count) is associated with preeclampsia and has similar symptoms. It is a life-threatening pregnancy condition and one of the reasons that can cause discharge of protein in the urine.

  1. Infection in Kidney or Urinary Tract :

An infection of the kidney or urinary tract may also cause loss of protein in the urine. It is important to check the symptoms for this condition and consult your doctor for remediation.

  1. Other Factors :

Conditions such as dehydration, excess stress, arthritis and diabetes can also result in a discharge of protein in the urine during pregnancy.

Signs and Symptoms of Protein in Urine

Following symptoms can be an indication of protein discharge in urine:

  1. Swelling of hands and feet
  2. Face swelling
  3. Foamy urine

Symptoms of Protein in Urine:Swelling of feet

Signs of Preeclampsia :

Following are the signs of preeclampsia during pregnancy which you should be on the lookout for:

  • Hazy, blurred vision
  • Frequent headaches
  • Acute pain in shoulder and abdominal region
  • Swelling of hands, face and feet
  • Feeling of illness and tiredness
  • Sudden gain in weight
  • Trouble in breathing accompanied by anxiety
  • High blood pressure

Diagnosis and Tests

Following are the tests performed to detect proteinuria:

  1. The Dipstick Test: In this test, a strip with chemically treated patches is dipped into the urine sample, which changes colour in case of presence of protein. The reading from this test ranges from + to ++++ with 4 ‘+’ indicating high protein in the urine, which is an indication of preeclampsia or damage to the kidney.
  2. 24-Hour Urine Protein Test: In this test, urine samples are collected over a period of 24 hours in separate containers and sent for analysis. Usually, the first urine in the morning is not considered for the test purposes. If the protein content in urine is greater than 300mg, it is an indication of preeclampsia.
Type of test Urine protein (normal) Urine protein (pregnancy)
24 hours 10-140mg <300mg
Spot urine 10-14mg/L <300mg/L
Spot urine dipstick Negative Negative or Trace

Complications

Discharge of protein in the urine during pregnancy can be a sign of serious problems in the body. Following are the possible complications which are associated with proteinuria:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Preeclampsia
  • HELLP syndrome
  • Higher stress levels
  • Frequent fever and dehydration
  • Pulmonary oedema due to overflow of fluids
  • Acute renal failure
  • Increased risk of infection from bacteria
  • Possibility of suffering from ailments such as heart problems, kidney infection, diabetes, leukaemia, arthritis, and anaemia.

Higher level of stress

Treatment for Protein in Urine During Pregnancy

Passage of high protein in the urine during pregnancy is not a disease in itself and hence there is no treatment for it. The key here is to find the root cause of the increased protein discharge and to take a corrective action against the problem.

In order to understand how to reduce protein in the urine during pregnancy, it is necessary to diagnose the real reason behind it. For instance, if the reason for protein discharge is diabetes, then you will have to control it by exercising, taking necessary medication and eating the right food. If the cause of proteinuria is hypertension, you will have to get treated for hypertension in order to treat the condition.

Discharge of protein in the urine during pregnancy can be a serious condition which is not to be taken lightly. On noticing any symptoms of proteinuria, it is important to consult a doctor immediately and get yourself tested for the condition. Timely identification of the underlying disease and taking corrective action will help you from restricting any further damage from the underlying disease or ailment.

Also Read: Blood Pressure During Pregnancy