Urinary Tract Infection During Pregnancy

A urinary tract infection (UTI), also called bladder infection, is a bacterial inflammation in the urinary tract. Pregnant women are at increased risk for UTI's starting in week 6 through week 24.

Why are UTI's more common during pregnancy?

UTI's are more common during pregnancy because of changes in the urinary tract. The uterus sits directly on top of the bladder. As the uterus grows, its increased weight can block the drainage of urine from the bladder, causing an infection.

What are the signs and symptoms of UTI's?

If you have a urinary tract infection, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain or burning (discomfort) when urinating
  • The need to urinate more often than usual
  • A feeling of urgency when you urinate
  • Blood or mucus in the urine
  • Cramps or pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Chills, fever, sweats, leaking of urine (incontinence)
  • Waking up from sleep to urinate
  • Change in amount of urine, either more or less
  • Urine that looks cloudy, smells foul or unusually strong
  • Pain, pressure, or tenderness in the area of the bladder

When bacteria spreads to the kidneys you may experience: back pain, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

How will the UTI affect my baby?

If the UTI goes untreated, it may lead to a kidney infection. Kidney infections may cause early labor and low birth weight. If your doctor treats a urinary tract infection early and properly, the UTI will not cause harm to your baby.

How do I know if I have a UTI?

A urinalysis and a urine culture can detect a UTI throughout pregnancy.

How is a UTI treated?

UTI's can be safely treated with antibiotics during pregnancy. Urinary tract infections are most commonly treated by antibiotics. Doctors usually prescribe a 3-7 day course of antibiotics that is safe for you and the baby.

Call your doctor if you have fever, chills, lower stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, contractions, or if after taking medicine for three days, you still have a burning feeling when you urinate.

How can I prevent a UTI?

You may do everything right and still experience a urinary tract infection, but you can reduce the likelihood by doing the following:

  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water each day and unsweetened cranberry juice regularly.
  • Eliminate refined foods, fruit juices, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
  • Take Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg), Beta-carotene (25,000 to 50,000 IU per day) and Zinc (30-50 mg per day) to help fight infection.
  • Develop a habit of urinating as soon as the need is felt and empty your bladder completely when you urinate.
  • Urinate before and after intercourse.
  • Avoid intercourse while you are being treated for an UTI.
  • After urinating, blot dry (do not rub), and keep your genital area clean. Make sure you wipe from the front toward the back. Avoid using strong soaps, douches, antiseptic creams, feminine hygiene sprays, and powders.
  • Change underwear and pantyhose every day.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting pants.
  • Wear all cotton or cotton-crotch underwear and pantyhose.
  • Don't soak in the bathtub longer than 30 minutes or more than twice a day.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association.

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