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    UTI During Pregnancy: Is It Dangerous?

    Updated 23 February 2021 |
    Published 26 December 2018
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Natalia Viarenich, MD, Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Lithuania
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    A urinary tract infection can develop in any part of a person’s urinary system, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Women have a greater risk of getting UTIs because of their shorter urethra, which allows bacteria to reach the bladder more easily.

    What is a UTI? 

    A urinary tract infection happens when bacteria colonize the areas through which urine exits the body. During pregnancy, the chance of getting these infections increases due to changes in the urinary tract and immune system.

    As your fetus grows, your uterus expands. This puts pressure on your bladder and ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder). Under pressure, the urinary tract may become blocked and unable to drain urine properly. Pregnancy hormones may also cause the relaxation of smooth muscles, which can result in urine retention.

    In this situation, bacteria can readily grow and thrive throughout the urinary tract, causing an infection.

    What are the signs of UTIs? 

    Some people who get a UTI in pregnancy may not experience any overt symptoms. For others, UTI symptoms can appear quickly.

    Here are some of the most common UTI symptoms during pregnancy to look for:

    • A burning feeling when you’re urinating
    • Cloudy urine
    • Urinating more frequently
    • Strong urge to urinate
    • Unusual urine odor
    • Pain in the lower abdomen and lower back
    • Fever and chills
    • Nausea
    • Painful sex 

    These symptoms often indicate a UTI. If you experience any of them, talk to your health care provider to ensure that your pregnancy is managed safely.

    How is a urinary tract infection diagnosed?

    If you suspect a urinary tract infection, visit a health care provider as soon as possible. At the medical facility, the health care provider will request a urine sample for testing.

    First, your provider will observe the appearance and smell of your sample. A normal urine sample should be clear and slightly yellow. If you have an infection, your urine will most likely have an odor and appear cloudy.

    To pinpoint the kind of bacteria responsible for the infection, the provider will use medical technology to examine your urine and a blood sample.

    How is a urinary tract infection treated?

    After a health care provider determines the cause of your symptoms, they can propose the appropriate treatment for UTI in pregnancy.

    Most patients receive antibiotics during pregnancy for UTI. These antibiotics are mainly antimicrobials from two specific groups — penicillins and macrolides. These include amoxicillin, azithromycin, and erythromycin.

    Other drugs (fluoroquinolones and sulfonamides, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, nitrofurantoin, and cephalosporins) can pose health risks to a baby. It’s important to steer clear of them. Your health care provider will prescribe one of the safe drugs depending on the kind of infection and any allergies you may have.

    You’ll need to take the antibiotics for three to seven days, depending on the prescription. Most symptoms will disappear in one to two days, but your health care provider will still instruct you to take the drugs until the prescription is gone to ensure the bacteria don’t become resistant to treatment.

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