Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnancy
Anyone young or old, male or female, can get urinary tract infections, but pregnant women are particularly prone to them. But what happens if you get a urinary tract infection during pregnancy and what treatment is available?
A urinary tract infection, or UTI as it’s also known, is an infection of the urinary system. The infection is relatively common in women aged between 20 and 50 and in the region of 50% of women experience at least one urinary tract infection in their life. They can occur at any time but during pregnancy women become even more susceptible to UTIs.
What Causes Urinary Tract Infections?Most urinary tract infections are caused when bacteria gets into your urethra (the tube from the bladder through which urine passes) and into your bladder. The bacteria thrives and grows quickly, which causes an infection to develop. Sometimes the harmful bacteria comes from the anus area and women are more prone to this type of bacterial infection because their urethra is shorter and opens up closer to the anus.
Pregnant women are more susceptible to getting urinary tract infections because of the changes that their body goes through. Increased levels of the hormone progesterone cause the muscles of the urethras to relax more. This means that the flow of urine from your kidneys to your bladder is slowed down, leaving more time for bacteria to grow and cause infection before they’re flushed out from your body.
If left untreated, the infection can move up to the kidneys, causing kidney infections. Any kidney infection that isn’t treated runs the risk of causing long term damage to the kidneys. If a kidney infection is left untreated during pregnancy, then you have the extra risk of your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight. Kidney infections are really nasty and you will know you have one, as you’ll feel really unwell, so don’t leave it untreated.
What Are The Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections?
Urinary tract infections can be really uncomfortable and make you feel generally unwell. The main symptoms to look out for include:
- Pain or a burning sensation when you pass urine.
- Pain or aching in your lower abdomen, lower back, in your pelvis or in your side.
- A feeling that you’re not able to urinate as much as you’d like to.
- A change in the amount of urine you’re passing – either more or less.
- Cloudy, bloody or smelly urine.
- A frequent need to go to the toilet.
- A temperature, or feeling hot and cold.
- Nausea and vomiting.
How Are Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnancy Treated?
If you get a urinary tract infection during pregnancy, then it will need to be treated with antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, and whether or not it has reached your kidneys, you will be prescribed some pregnancy-safe antibiotics – either a short three day course or a longer course of seven days of antibiotics.
In addition to antibiotics, some simple self-help measures can help reduce the risk of other urinary tract infections. For example, drinking plenty of water can help flush out your kidneys and reduce the chance of infection building up in your bladder. If you’ve already got a history of UTIs, then drinking cranberry juice can help reduce the levels of bacteria and prevent any new bacteria from developing into an infection.