Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are quite common during pregnancy due to the various changes your body goes through. These infections, if not treated promptly, can lead to complications for both mum and baby. This article aims to help you understand what UTIs are, how they affect pregnancy, and the crucial steps you can take for early detection, treatment, and prevention.
Understanding the Urinary System and Urinary Tract Infections
Our urinary system plays a crucial role in removing waste from our body. It includes two kidneys, a bladder, and tubes called ureters and the urethra. A UTI can occur when bacteria enter this system, often causing an infection in the bladder (cystitis) or the urethra (urethritis). During pregnancy, hormonal changes and the growing baby can affect the urinary system, making mums-to-be more susceptible to UTIs.
Risk Factors for UTIs in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the body undergoes several changes, which may increase the chance of getting a UTI. The enlarging womb can put pressure on the bladder, preventing it from emptying fully and thus encouraging bacteria to grow. Other risk factors can include a history of UTIs, new sexual partners or increased frequency of intercourse, and pre-existing conditions such as diabetes.
Symptoms of UTIs in Pregnancy
UTIs can cause discomfort, frequent urge to urinate, pain during urination, lower abdominal pain, and changes in urine (cloudy or strong-smelling). However, not all women show symptoms (a condition known as asymptomatic bacteriuria), which is why regular antenatal checks are crucial.
Complications of Urinary tract infections in Pregnancy
If left untreated, UTIs can lead to a kidney infection, which can cause premature labour and a low birth weight for the baby. This highlights the importance of early detection and prompt treatment.
Diagnosis of UTIs in Pregnancy
UTIs are usually diagnosed using a simple urine test. If UTIs occur frequently, an ultrasound may be used to check for any abnormalities in the urinary system. Regular prenatal visits can help detect and treat UTIs early.
Treatment for UTIs in Pregnancy
UTIs are typically treated with antibiotics that are safe for use during pregnancy. It’s important to take the full course of medication, even if symptoms clear up sooner, to completely eradicate the infection. Drinking plenty of water can also help flush out bacteria.
Prevention of UTIs During Pregnancy
Preventing UTIs involves simple steps such as practising good hygiene, urinating frequently to prevent stagnation of urine, drinking plenty of fluids, and avoiding irritants like harsh soaps or bubble baths. A balanced diet rich in Vitamin C can also help, as it makes the urine more acidic, discouraging bacteria from growing.
UTIs are a common occurrence during pregnancy, but with the right knowledge, they can be detected, treated, and prevented effectively. If you’re pregnant and suspect you might have a UTI, do seek medical advice promptly. Remember, keeping up with your antenatal appointments can ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies [Internet]. London: NICE; 2008 [cited 2023 May 25]. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Urinary Tract Infections [Internet]. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2018 [cited 2023 May 25]. Available from: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/urinary-tract-infections
- Mayo Clinic. Urinary tract infection (UTI) [Internet]. Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic; 2021 [cited 2023 May 25]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/urinary-tract-infection-uti
- Cochrane Library. Systematic review on urinary tract infections in pregnancy [Internet]. London: Cochrane Library; 2017 [cited 2023 May 25]. Available from: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD002256.pub2/full