Know All About Urinary Tract Infections during Pregnancy

Among the general pregnancy complications, the most common ones are urinary tract infections, which generally occur during week 4th to week 24th of pregnancy. The intensity of these infections can be mild to severe. According to March of Dimes USA, around 10% of all the pregnant women suffer from some kind of urinary tract infection during their pregnancy.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

Generally, with the term “urinary tract infection” we understand any kind of bladder infection which may cause some difficulty in urination. However, urinary tract infections or commonly known as UTIs are much more than that. UTIs refer to any kind of infection in whole urinary tract and that includes kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra. However, the common areas of infection are urethra and bladder.

Why is a pregnant woman more prone to UTIs?

Although a UTI can happen to any woman, but a pregnant woman is at higher risk. A pregnant woman undergoes through many hormonal changes in her body during pregnancy. These hormonal changes predispose a pregnant woman to UTIs. Due to hormonal changes, the muscle tone of the uterus is decreased and thus, slows down the flow of the urine. This gives bacteria more time to stay and multiply, causing infections. Along with that, as the uterus presses on the bladder, it cannot be emptied in one go. Therefore, there is some stagnant urine in the bladder and this can be a source of infection.

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What are the common symptoms of UTI?

Though the symptoms vary from woman to woman but the common symptoms include:

  • Pain, discomfort and burning sensation during urination
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Need to urinate more often
  • Cramps or pain in lower abdomen
  • Chills, fever, incontinence
  • Cloudy, foul-smelling strong urine
  • Change in the amount of urine
  • Painful and tender bladder

Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection:

There is a very safe treatment of UTIs with antibiotics. Generally, a 3-7 days medicine course is prescribed for it. Most of the symptoms will wither away in just 2-4 days. However, a pregnant woman must complete the medicine course to avoid any further infections. Most common antibiotics prescribed for this treatment are amoxicillin, penicillin and erythromycin. There are some other medications also, but some of them can affect liver. Therefore, one must do consult a doctor before taking any antibiotics.

Prevention of UTIs:

Though a woman can get a UTI anytime during her pregnancy but she can always reduce the likelihood of such infection by following these tips:

  • Drinking 7-8 glasses of water every day.
  • Giving up foods, fruit juices, alcohol and sugar
  • Urinating before and after intercourse
  • Avoiding tight fitting pants
  • Keeping her genital area as much clean as possible
  • Not using antiseptic creams, hygiene sprays or powder in the vaginal area.

Do UTIs pose any risk to the mother and the baby?

Generally, a UTI does not cause any serious problem to the mother and the baby. However, sometimes you may not feel any symptoms of infections and in that case, infections may spread to kidneys. The kidney infection can be life threatening. However, to prevent this, the obstetrician performs routine urine test during first prenatal visit of patient. If the urine test shows some unusual result, he/she may recommend the patient to go for urine culture which can give clear results.

This is the reason it is always advised to go for prenatal visits and prenatal tests. Some problems detected at a nascent stage can be treated or stopped from further exacerbation.

Like urine tests, the doctor also performs other critical tests such as Down’s syndrome test and other genetic screening tests on a pregnant woman. Earlier, doctors used to suggest amniocentesis for detecting any chromosomal abnormality in a developing child. However, with the introduction of highly accurate screening tests such as NACE (Non-invasive Analysis for Chromosomal Examination), which is a safe and risk-free prenatal genetic screening test, doctors want the patients to first undergo this non-invasive screening test and if the results are positive, then only patient is advised to undergo an invasive procedure such as Amniocentesis or CVS.

NACE only requires a small sample of the mother’s peripheral blood to detect the possibility of different chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome, Patau’s syndrome or Edward’s syndrome in the child. The best part of this test is that it can be done as early as 10th week of pregnancy.