Protein in the urine, known as proteinuria, can be an indicator of health problems. It's particularly worrisome during pregnancy. Proteinuria in pregnancy often indicates a serious underlying condition that requires medical treatment.
What Causes Protein in Urine During Pregnancy?
Protein levels in the urine naturally increase during pregnancy due to physiological changes in a pregnant woman's body. But high protein in urine during pregnancy can be a sign that something is wrong. High protein levels during the first half of pregnancy can indicate a minor infection, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI). It could also be due to an underlying health problem that was present before pregnancy, such as heart disease or kidney issues.
After 20 weeks of pregnancy, high urine protein levels are a more significant concern. Along with elevated blood pressure, proteinuria in pregnancy is a key symptom of preeclampsia, a condition that can be dangerous to both mother and baby.
What Are the Symptoms of Proteinuria in Pregnancy?
Proteinuria, whether due to an infection or preeclampsia, is a sign that your kidneys are struggling to filter urine properly. You may have no symptoms at all1 with proteinuria. If you do experience symptoms, they may include:
- frequent or painful urination
- foamy or bloody urine
- swollen ankles, hands, or face
- back pain
If you experience blurred vision, decreased urination, severe headaches, shortness of breath, or right-side abdominal pain, contact your medical provider immediately, as these are sometimes signs of severe preeclampsia2. You can learn more about general symptoms of proteinuria in this blog.
How is Proteinuria Treated During Pregnancy?
You may be wondering how to reduce protein in urine during pregnancy. Because proteinuria is a symptom rather than a condition, there's no effective way to decrease your protein levels. Instead, you should work with your healthcare provider to treat the infection or condition that's causing elevated urine protein. If you have a UTI or other infection, your provider will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics.
If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, your doctor should monitor you and your baby closely. They may prescribe medications to manage your blood pressure. If you are near full-term and your condition is severe, your doctor might induce labor to ensure your baby is delivered safely.