UTI during Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in women. About one in five women develop UTI at some point in their lives. However, pregnancy increases the chances of getting the infection as a woman’s body goes through rapid changes, which can provide a conducive environment for the intestinal and gastrointestinal bacteria to enter the urinary tract. Urine infection in early pregnancy is fairly common. A woman has a higher chance of developing a UTI between the 6th and the 24th week of pregnancy. Read on to know more about UTIs during pregnancy.

What Is Urinary Tract Infection?

A urinary tract infection is an inflammation of the urinary tract due to bacteria. Although it is commonly associated with a bladder infection, it may happen at any part of your urinary tract. This includes the kidneys which make the urine, the ureter which carries the urine to the bladder, the bladder where your urine accumulates and the urethra which carries urine out of your body.

UTIs are commonly caused due to the bacteria from the skin, vagina and the rectal area which enter into the urinary tract. There are different types of UTIs:

  • Bladder Infection or Cystitis: This happens when the bacteria accumulate and multiply in the bladder, causing inflammation. It is common in women between 20 and 50 years of age who are sexually active.
  • Kidney Infection or Pyelonephritis: When the bacteria travel up the urinary tract and into the kidneys, they may infect one or both the kidneys. A kidney infection is a serious complication during pregnancy. The infection may enter your bloodstream and cause life-threatening complications as well. It also increases the risk of preterm labour, low birth weight and has been linked to a higher risk of foetal mortality.
  • Asymptomatic Bacteriuria: If you have no symptoms even though there are bacteria in your urinary tract, it is called asymptomatic bacteriuria. When you are pregnant, if this is not treated, it can increase the risk of kidney infection. This is why doctors perform a urine test on your routine prenatal check-ups.

Why Are UTIs Common During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy hormones and your growing uterus make you more likely to get a urinary tract infection during pregnancy. The progesterone hormone causes the ureters to dilate and slow the flow of urine. Your expanding uterus also presses against the ureters making the flow of urine difficult. Your bladder will also have trouble expelling all the urine out of your body during pregnancy. Some of it may even flow back into the kidneys due to a condition called reflux. These changes increase the chances of bacteria multiplying and causing an infection. Moreover, during pregnancy, your urine is less acidic and has more glucose in it, giving bacteria a chance to multiply more freely.

What Causes Urine Infection During Pregnancy?

Some of the common reasons for urinary tract infection during pregnancy are:

  • Changes in Your Body: Changes in the body, such as increasing levels of hormones and growing uterus, cause a slower flow of urine in the ureters due to the pressure on the bladder. This also leads to an inability to expel urine completely from the bladder. All of these changes can contribute to a urinary tract infection during pregnancy.
  • Bowel Bacteria: One of the common reasons for a urinary tract infection is bacteria from the bowel. As the distance between the urethra and the rectum in women is very short, it is easier for bacteria like E.coli to travel into the urinary tract.
  • Sex During Pregnancy: Although sex during pregnancy is healthy, it may increase your chances of a UTI. The bacteria in your vagina get pushed into the urethra, leading them into the urinary tract. Peeing before and after sex and rinsing the region after sex can help prevent UTIs.
  • Group B Streptococcus: These bacteria are commonly found in the intestinal tract and can lead to infections that cause painful urination during pregnancy.

In addition to these causes, if you have diabetes, have given birth to several children, are obese, or have a history of recurrent UTI, you may be at a higher risk of developing a UTI.

Signs and Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection During Pregnancy

Signs and Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection During Pregnancy

Here are some of the symptoms of urinary tract infection in pregnancy that you may experience.

  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • A feeling of urgency as you urinate
  • Painful cramps in the lower abdomen
  • Blood or mucus in the urine
  • Fever, sweats and chills
  • Incontinence or leaking of urine
  • Pain during sex
  • Soreness or tenderness in the bladder area
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Urine looks cloudy
  • Back pain, nausea and vomiting (signs of kidney infection)

How Is UTI Diagnosed in Pregnancy?

UTI is diagnosed with a urine culture. The urine is analysed for the presence of bacteria, and you will be given pregnancy-safe antibiotics if you have an infection. Sometimes, the infection can last more days if its severe or has resistance bacteria, but the antibiotics won’t be given for more than 10 days.

Can Urine Infection Be Dangerous During Pregnancy?

Urine infections, if left untreated, can become dangerous during pregnancy. This is especially true of kidney infections as they can be life-threatening to both the mother and the baby. It can also increase the risk of low birth weight in babies and preterm labour. If not treated effectively, there is a chance that it may return even after delivery.

How to Treat Bladder Infection During Pregnancy

If you have a bladder infection during pregnancy, you will be provided with antibiotics to relieve the symptoms. It is important that you complete the course of antibiotics even though your pain is alleviated in a few days.

Are There Any Natural Remedies for UTI?

There are several natural home remedies for UTI that you can try under directions from a health expert. Some of them include:

  • Vitamin C: Eating foods and fruits rich in Vitamin-C such as oranges can make your urine more acidic and inhibit the growth of bacteria.
  • Clove Oil: Clove oil has antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties which can help prevent the bacterial formation in the urinary tract.
  • Oregano Oil: Oregano oil also has anti-bacterial properties and can inhibit the growth of UTI-causing bacteria like E.coli. However, it must be used only after approval from the doctor to avoid any pregnancy complications.

How Can You Prevent UTI?

Following these simple steps can help you prevent a UTI:

  • Drink Plenty of Water: Stay hydrated and drink at least eight to twelve glasses of water every day. This can help flush out the bacteria from your urethra.
  • Pee When You Feel Like it: Do not hold your pee or ignore the urge to pee.
  • Wipe Front to Back: Always wipe from the front to the back in order to prevent bacteria from travelling from the rectum to your urethra.
  • Maintain Genital Hygiene: Use mild soap and water to wash your genital area thoroughly.
  • Avoid Using Feminine Hygiene Products: Do not use sprays, douches, and powders that can irritate your genital area and urethra. An irritated genital area provides a better breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Avoid Wearing Tight Panties: Do not wear panties that fit too tightly and wear cotton underpants if you can. This will keep your genital area dry and prevent bacteria from multiplying. Also, change your underwear every day.
  • Avoid Bathtubs: Try to use a shower instead of bathtubs as the latter can allow bacteria from the anus to enter the urethra. If you use a bathtub, ensure that you limit your time in it.

UTIs can be prevented with proper hygiene, hydration, and care. This way, you can stay clear of any risks that it may pose to your pregnancy. However, if you notice any signs of a urinary infection, it is best to seek medical help from your healthcare expert to alleviate the symptoms. Also, ensure that you go for regular check-ups and get a urine culture performed to keep a check on any urine infection that could be potentially dangerous.

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