Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) During Pregnancy
A Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI for short, is an infection in any part of your urinary system. UTIs typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and begin to multiply in the bladder . UTIs are more prevalent in women than men with women up to 30 percent greater risk of acquiring a UTI . Pregnant women are at increased risk for UTIs. The risk increases beginning in week 6 and peaking during weeks 22 to 24 .
Clinical data suggests that around 50–60% of women will develop UTIs in their lifetimes. Pregnant women are at increased risk for UTI.
WHY PREGNANCY INCREASES RISK OF UTIs?
The increased risk of UTIs during pregnancy is primarily due to changes in the urinary tract. The uterus sits right above the bladder and as the size of the uterus grows, the increased weight may prevent proper urine drainage from the bladder. Incomplete urine drainage for an extended period of time causes bacteria to thrive which could potentially lead to an infection . Moreover, the infection can also be a result of the hormonal changes a woman goes through during pregnancy, making women more prone to developing an infection .
SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR:
The most common symptoms of a UTI are:
- Urge to pass urine more frequently
- Blood in urine
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Urine Incontinence (leakage)
- Waking up during the night to pass urine
- Pressure or pain around the bladder
- Cramps in the lower abdomen
- Pain in the lower back
Some women have a UTI with no symptoms at all. Because an untreated infection can lead to complications, notify your provider immediately if you have any UTI-like symptoms .
UTI during pregnancy can be dangerous and can create complications for the mother as well as the baby. With UTI present, there is a possibility of premature labor. Moreover, the baby may also have low weight at birth due to a UTI that is not treated . Hence, it is important that UTIs, especially in pregnant women, are treated at the earliest. This can be done by checking in with the doctor if you feel even the slightest of any of the symptoms mentioned above. A simple urine test can show whether there are any bacteria present in the urine to cause infection .
If you suspect that you have a UTI based on your symptoms, contact your doctor. Your doctor will review your symptoms and perform a physical examination. To confirm a diagnosis of a UTI, your doctor will need to test your urine for microbes.
There two popular tests to diagnose a UTI, a dipstick test and a urine culture test.
A urine dipstick test is a quick, cheap and useful test in predicting Urinary Tract Infection. The dipstick test uses a thin plastic strip treated with chemicals that change color when dipped in urine. It works similar to a pregnancy test. You dip the strip in the urine sample and wait for 1 – 2 minutes for the color of the test strip to change. Results are interpreted by comparing the colors of the dipstick pad against the color chart provided. It is a quick and simple test that checks the presence of white blood cells and bacteria in urine, which, if present, may indicate a UTI.
A urine culture test, on the other hand, checks for specific germs or bacteria in the urine. It is performed at a clinic and the test is sent to a lab for examination. The results of a urine culture test usually take between 1 – 3 days and help the physician to identify the most effective treatment plan according to the cause of infection.
“A simple urine test can help detect a UTI from the privacy of your home.”
Treatment of UTIs depends on the cause. Your doctor will be able to determine which organism is causing the infection from the test results used to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, the cause is bacteria. UTIs caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotics. Viral UTIs are treated with medications called antivirals. Fungal UTIs are treated with medications called antifungals.
A pregnancy-safe antibiotic course can be recommended by the doctor to cure UTI. There are no home remedies that can cure a UTI, but there are some things that you can do to help with the maintenance and prevention of UTIs.
Some common home remedies that are popular in preventing a UTI are consuming cranberry juice and increasing the daily water intake . It is important to know that cranberry juice or cranberries don’t treat a UTI once it’s started. However, a chemical in cranberries may help prevent certain types of bacteria that can cause a bacterial UTI from attaching to the lining of your bladder. This may be helpful in preventing future UTIs. When pregnant, it is wise for women to take precautionary measures to prevent UTI from occurring in the first place.
“Cranberry juice or cranberries don’t treat a UTI once it’s started.”
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN TREATMENT
UTIs can be prevented during pregnancy by taking some of the following measures:
- Urinating frequently
- Staying hydrated with increased water intake
- Urinating before and after sexual intercourse
- Wearing underwear made of cotton
- voiding usage of body wash or soap that can irritate private parts 
These preventive measures are easy to follow and can help in reducing the risk of infection during pregnancy which can later create complications for the mother and the baby. In case, a UTI has been detected, it is imperative that it is treated correctly and immediately by a trained physician for the mother and baby to be healthy.
Products that can help in the detection of UTI
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- Mayo Clinic Staff, “Urinary Tract Infection (UTI),” Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 16, 2022.
- Jenny Stamos Kovacs, “Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs),” WebMD. Accessed May 16, 2022.
- NIH Staff, “Urinary Tract Infection - adults,” Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia – National Library of Medicine, NIH. Accessed May 16, 2022.
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