Why are pregnant women more likely to get UTI’s?
Do you ever wonder why your doctor often asks for a urine sample during your prenatal appointment? There are a few different reasons, but one is to screen for a urinary tract infection or UTI. Urinary tract infections are the most common type of infection found in pregnant women.
Why is that? Well there are several changes that happen to your urinary system when you’re pregnant which can make you predisposed to frequent UTI’s. The bladder is somewhat displaced as the uterus grows and places pressure on it. Your body’s increased production of progesterone causes the smooth muscles in the bladder to relax which can make it more difficult to fully empty your bladder every time you use the bathroom. There is also a change in the pH of your urine when you’re pregnant. All of these factors combined can make you more susceptible to a UTI.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection that involves your urinary system. This can include your bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra. Most commonly though it is your bladder or urethra affected. If untreated a lower urinary tract infection may progress into an upper tract infection and involve the kidneys. This is called pyelonephritis or a kidney infection. The infection is caused by some kind of bacteria that finds its way into your urinary system and may start to cause annoying symptoms. If left untreated a UTI or kidney infection in pregnancy can lead to preterm labor.
Symptoms of a UTI
You may notice burning or pain when trying to urinate, the feeling that you’re never able to fully empty your bladder, having to urinate frequently, lower abdominal cramping, blood or mucous in your urine and chills or fever. You might also notice your urine has a stronger, more unpleasant smell than normal or appear cloudy looking. Some of these symptoms obviously occur in pregnancy without an infection so it can be hard to differentiate! So how do we determine if it’s just baby pushing on your bladder making you pee all the time or truly an infection?
Diagnosis of a UTI
Diagnosing a UTI is quite simple. Your doctor or nurse will ask you to pee in a cup and they will do a urinalysis. This checks for the presence of leukocytes, among other things. Leukocytes are another word for white blood cells. White blood cells aren’t normally found in the urine in high amounts, so they are usually indicative of an infection. When an infection is present in the urinary tract, white blood cells rapidly multiple and try to attack and destroy the bacteria causing the infection.
The urinalysis might also detect the present of nitrites in your urine if you have an infection. This is because the bacteria causing the infection produce an enzyme that changes nitrates to nitrites in your urine. If the initial urinalysis shows leukocytes, nitrites or blood your doctor will likely send your urine to the lab for a urine culture. This test confirms the diagnosis of a UTI by determining what specific bacteria is growing in your urine.
If your urine culture test is positive your doctor will give you a prescription for an antibiotic that will fight against the bacteria that is growing in your urinary tract and causing your unpleasant symptoms. It is important you finish the entire prescription, even if your symptoms go away after a couple of days. You should also drink lots of water. This will help flush out the bacteria that is causing the infection. It is also important to empty your bladder often and fully. You can also take Tylenol to help manage any discomfort or fever.
Stay hydrated! Always drink lots of water and try to avoid long periods without emptying your bladder. It’s also important to urinate right after having intercourse and always wipe front to back to prevent bacteria from your bottom from entering your urethra.
If you have any questions about your pregnancy, baby, breastfeeding or sleep reach out to your local Mama Coach! Many of our services are also offered virtually if there isn’t a Mama Coach local to your area.