Pregnancy Information Complications Urinary Tract Infection

Women are more at risk of a urinary tract infection, or UTI, than men. Pregnancy increases the risk of a urinary tract infection even higher. While a UTI does not directly threaten a pregnancy, a urinary tract infection can result in bladder or kidney infection, which can adversely affect both the pregnant woman and the fetus.

Symptoms of UTI and Bladder Infections During Pregnancy

Bladder and urinary tract infection symptoms are the same whether a woman is pregnant or not. A UTI or bladder infection can cause a burning sensation while urinating, or a strong urinary odor. Blood may be present in the urine.

A UTI also causes increased urination. As more frequent urination is normal for pregnancy, however, a pregnant woman may dismiss this symptom if no other UTI symptoms are present.

In many cases, pregnant women with a urinary tract infection have no symptoms of a UTI. A urinary tract infection without UTI symptoms is known as an asymptomatic urinary tract infection.

Treatment of a UTI During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, antibiotics can be used to treat a urinary tract infection. If UTI-causing bacteria are detected in urine, pregnant women will be treated for a urinary tract infection even if symptoms aren’t present. The most common agent responsible for urinary tract infection in pregnant women is E. coli bacteria.

From the Bladder to the Kidneys: UTI Complications While Pregnant

A urinary tract infection itself is no threat to a pregnant woman or her baby, but a UTI may spread to the bladder. From the bladder, the infection can spread to the kidneys, where it can cause pregnancy complications.

Once a UTI infects the bladder and kidneys, a pregnant woman is at risk for hypertension, preeclampsia, anemia (low red blood count) and amnionitis, an infection of the amniotic membrane. Bladder and kidney infections increase the chance of premature labor, premature birth and low birth weight.

Fortunately, prompt treatment of bladder and urinary tract infections in most pregnant women usually prevents kidney infection. To avoid UTI complications during pregnancy, a pregnant woman should contact her doctor immediately if she experiences any of the following symptoms:

  • chills
  • fever
  • lower abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • side pain
  • uterine contractions
  • vomiting
  • burning urination.

Avoiding Urinary Tract Infection During Pregnancy

Pregnant women can reduce the risk of a urinary tract infection during pregnancy by following a few simple guidelines.

  • Drink plenty of fluids while pregnant. This can help flush UTI bacteria out of the bladder before they spread.
  • Urinate often (you’re pregnant-this should be easy!), and don’t try to hold urine in a full bladder.
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse to flush out possible UTI bacteria. This reduces the risk of a urinary tract infection whether you’re pregnant or not.
  • Most importantly, wipe front to back after urination.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians. (2000). Urinary tract infections during pregnancy.

Beers, M. H.,