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UTI During Pregnancy: Is It Dangerous?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system: kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Women are at much greater risk of getting UTI than men.
pregnant woman consulting a doctor

What is a UTI? 

A urinary tract infection is an infection that takes hold when bacteria colonize the areas through which urine makes it out of the body. During pregnancy, however, the chance of acquiring these infections is increased.

As the baby within you grows, your uterus expands. This puts pressure on your bladder and ureters. Under pressure, urinary tract gets blocked and cannot drain urine properly.

In this situation, the bacteria readily grow and thrive, causing an infection. The infection can run from the urethra up through the bladder and into the kidneys via the ureters.

What are the symptoms and signs of UTIs?

Sometimes when you get a UTI in pregnancy, you might not experience any overt signs and symptoms to alert you to the fact that something is wrong.

However, there are some clear UTI symptoms during pregnancy that you should look out for so that you can do away with infections during pregnancy.

These are the signs and symptoms of UTIs:

  • A burning feeling when you’re urinating
  • cloudy urine
  • urinating more frequently than usual
  • strong urge to urinate resulting into small volumes of urine
  • bad smell of the urine
  • pain in the lower abdomen and lower back
  • fever
  • nausea
  • painful sex during pregnancy.

Keep an eye out for these symptoms because they might be indicative of a UTI that could put your pregnancy at risk.

woman in a red dress with her hands down there

How is a urinary tract infection diagnosed?

When you suspect that you have a urinary tract infection, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. At the medical facility, the doctor will request for a sample of your urine so that they can conduct a number of tests to ascertain if you have an infection in your urinary tract.

The first test is 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 a bad odor and appear cloudy.

To further narrow down the kind of bacteria responsible for the infection, the medical professional will culture a sample of the urine.

Over time, the healthcare system has been cataloging the way it diagnoses and treats the various diseases. To help in further diagnosis, the World Health Organization came up with the International Classification of Diseases – the tenth revision (ICD-10) is currently in effect.

The ICD-10 code for UTI in pregnancy is O23.40.

How is a urinary tract infection treated?

After your doctor determines the cause, they can then come up with treatment for UTI in pregnancy.

The most common course of treatment is the use of antibiotics during pregnancy for UTI. 

These antibiotics are mainly antimicrobials under the categories of penicillins and macrolides. These include penicillin, amoxicillin, azithromycin, and erythromycin.

Other drugs from classes like fluoroquinolones and sulfonamides can pose a number of health risks to your unborn baby. You should, therefore, steer clear of them. Your doctor will prescribe any of the safe drugs depending on the kind of infection you have and allergic status if there is one.

They will recommend you taking these drugs for a period lasting from 3 to 7 days. Even if the symptoms disappear, you have to take the drugs until the prescription is done lest the bacteria become resistant.

Can a UTI affect pregnancy?

Urinary tract infections come second only to anemia in conditions that affect pregnant women most frequently.

When you notice the signs and symptoms, the infection can be halted in its tracks and treated. However, there are asymptomatic infections that can grow and spread within the body without you knowing or feeling anything out of the ordinary.

These asymptomatic UTIs have the potential to negatively affect the health of your unborn child. Scientists have conducted studies that show that these kinds of UTIs lead to pyelonephritis — an infection of the kidneys.

Not only does this hamper your very wellbeing, but it also affects the health of your baby. 

Pyelonephritis has been shown to cause the low birth weight of the baby. There’s also a risk of slowed mental development in babies whose mothers have advanced urinary tract infections.

In extreme cases, a UTI and pregnancy is a very viable reason for miscarriage and heightened infant mortality.

So, can a UTI affect pregnancy? Simply put: yes.

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Preventing UTIs

With your life and that of your baby at risk, it’s very important that you prevent bacteria from causing an infection in your urinary tract.

You can never really rule out the chance of getting an infection but you can still do a few simple things that will tilt the odds in your favor.

You can prevent UTIs by:

  • keeping properly hydrated, drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day
  • emptying your bladder whenever you urinate
  • always wiping from front to back whenever you go to the bathroom
  • urinating before and after sexual intercourse
  • avoiding douching
  • taking showers instead of baths
  • wearing loose-fitting pants
  • wearing cotton underwear.

Frequently asked questions on UTI and pregnancy

Seeing as UTI and pregnancy almost always come hand in hand, there are plenty of questions that you might have concerning your condition.

Here are some of the most common ones, with answers that provide some insight into the relationship between these infections and pregnancy.

Can a UTI affect a pregnancy test?

A pregnancy test is designed to detect the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone is produced by the placenta when the fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall.

Infections and their byproducts, on the other hand, cannot cause the body to produce this hormone. If you happen to have a UTI, you should seek medical help to safeguard your health.

Can a UTI be a sign of pregnancy?

A urinary tract infection isn’t a sign of pregnancy. However, engaging in unprotected intercourse can cause some infections that might coincide with your pregnancy.

question

Can a UTI be mistaken for a pregnancy?

At the beginning of your pregnancy in the first trimester, you will have some signs and symptoms that might point to a UTI as we discussed above. These include fatigue, frequent urination, back pain, and nausea. Bad cramps during early pregnancy can also be similar to the cramps you feel if it were an infection.

You should go to your doctor and rule out an infection or pregnancy since there are shared signs and symptoms.

Can a urinary tract infection prevent pregnancy?

When the infection goes untreated, it can affect your kidneys. Your kidneys remove waste from the body and are, therefore, unable to do so properly when they are infected. This puts many others body functions out of sync, including ovulation.

This means that there’s a big chance that you will not conceive when the UTI has spread to that extent.

 

UTI during pregnancy is very common because of the numerous changes that are taking place within your body.

These changes usually create the ideal situation for bacteria to thrive in your urinary tract. In these perfect conditions, the bacteria proliferate quickly, making the infection take hold and spread easily.

This infection can spread to your kidneys and even put your pregnancy at risk. This, therefore, makes it very dangerous.

1. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/pregnancy-urinary-tract-infection
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3833562/
3. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/urinary-tract-infections-during-pregnancy/
4. https://www.icd10data.com/ICD10CM/Codes/O00-O9A/O20-O29/O23-/O23.40
5. https://www.babymed.com/pregnancy-tests/pregnancy-test-qas

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