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UTI during pregnancy? What you should do about it

UTI during pregnancy? What you should do about it

Urinary tract infections affect as many as 10 in 25 women during their lifetime. Most UTIs can be resolved with antibiotics, but what happens when you get a UTI during pregnancy?

While UTIs are common for women at any time, they’re especially prevalent during pregnancy. Women are at an increased risk of developing a UTI during weeks six to 24 of pregnancy due to changes in the urinary tract.

The Lakeside Hospital team is here to share what you should know about having a UTI during pregnancy.

Understanding urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria make their way into the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder and urethra.

Urine is a waste product made in the kidneys. From the kidneys, it travels down the ureters to the bladder, where it is stored until it exits the body through the urethra. In a woman, the opening of the urethra sits above the vaginal opening, while in a man, the opening of the urethra is at the end of the penis.

Normally, urine doesn’t contain bacteria. Sometimes, though, bacteria can make its way into the urethra, where it can travel upward to the bladder. These bacteria can cause an infection at any point in the urinary tract, including kidney infections.

The facts about UTI during pregnancy

What makes pregnant women more susceptible to UTIs? Circle back to the information above about where the urethra is located in women.

This anatomical difference makes women more likely to develop urinary tract infections at any time. During pregnancy, a woman’s risk of UTI is magnified because the growing uterus puts pressure on the bladder.

That’s why pregnant women have an increased urge to urinate. The weight of the uterus can also keep the bladder from fully emptying.

If you develop a urinary tract infection, you may experience UTI symptoms, including:

  • Blood or mucus in urine
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Fever, chills or sweats
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Pain or pressure around the bladder

When a urinary tract infection progresses to the kidneys, back pain, nausea and vomiting are also common.

What to do if you think you have a UTI during pregnancy

If you experience UTI symptoms, check in with your OB/GYN. Your provider can use urinalysis and a urine culture to confirm an infection and the source of that infection. If you have a UTI, you can be safely treated with a short course of oral antibiotics.

Don’t put off seeing your provider if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms outlined above. A UTI during pregnancy can be associated with complications, including preterm labor and low birth weight.

You’ll also be asked to provide urine samples at prenatal appointments as part of maternity care. That’s because pregnant women can develop what’s known as asymptomatic bacteriuria, which is a high level of bacteria in the urine without symptoms. Untreated asymptomatic bacteriuria can cause UTIs, so women with the diagnosis may receive antibiotics even if they have no symptoms.

These urine tests can also detect group B streptococcus. This type of strep is associated with complications during and after pregnancy for mom and baby, so it is typically treated with an oral antibiotic during pregnancy and an IV antibiotic during labor.

Wondering how to prevent UTIs during pregnancy? Follow the same best practices as you do when you aren’t pregnant—drink plenty of water each day, urinate as soon as you feel the need, keep your genital area clean and avoid tight-fitting underwear and pants.

Women have unique needs at every stage of life, especially during pregnancy. Get care for both you and baby at Lakeside Hospital.