Urinary tract infection in pregnancy

Contracting a while pregnant isn’t much fun, but the good news is it can be treated. Due to an increased risk of complications, treatment for UTI in pregnant women is different than for the general population, and early discovery is crucial. 
In many countries, if you’ve previously had a UTI or any other illness that increases the risk of a UTI, screening for bacteria in the urinary tract is a routine part of maternity welfare. If you are pregnant and think you might have a UTI, but haven’t yet spoken to your doctor about it, you should do so as soon as possible. 

What happens if a UTI is not treated?

The most common type of UTI occurs in the lower urinary tract, infecting the urethra and bladder. If not treated, the infection can spread further up to the ureters and the kidneys, in the upper urinary tract. The symptoms of upper UTI are considerably worse and may include back pain, nausea and fever. Pregnancy also increases the risk of kidney infection.

Will a UTI affect my baby or my pregnancy?

With timely detection and effective treatment, a UTI will cause no harm to your baby. If not treated, however, a UTI can get worse and spread into the upper urinary tract. If this happens it could adversely affect you or your baby, as upper UTIs have been linked to increased high blood pressure, premature birth, and low birth weight. So be sure to contact your doctor If you suspect a UTI. They will know what to do.

Will a UTI affect my pregnancy?

A UTI during pregnancy can trigger your labour earlier than expected. A UTI also carries the risk of increased high blood pressure, and your water breaking too early. With timely detection, however, the condition is easily treatable.

How can I tell if I have a UTI?

Frequent visits to the bathroom are of course a normal part of being pregnant, so detecting a UTI can be tricky. Here are some symptoms that may indicate an infection.
  • Contractions and/or abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Small amounts of urine each time
  • Pain when urinating
  • Traces of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine, or urine that is dark, or cloudy
  • Feeling cold, not usually accompanied by fever
  • Sudden urinary

Are there always symptoms with a UTI?

No. A UTI may be present, and require treatment, even if you don’t see or experience any of the symptoms. A visit to your healthcare professional who will carry out a urine test will confirm for sure.

How is a UTI detected?

A urine test is the standard method for detection of a UTI. This test needs to be carried out by maternity welfare personnel to confirm whether or not bacteria are present.

Can other conditions be confused with a UTI?

Asymptomatic bacteriuria (ABU) refers to bacteria in the urinary tract that produce no symptoms other than cloudy or smelly urine. This condition is usually harmless and does not require antibiotics. However, this is not true during pregnancy.
Pregnant women with ABU are at a higher risk of developing an upper urinary tract infection, which does present symptoms, and is not healthy for the fetus. Antibiotics greatly reduce this risk, and may therefore be recommended by your doctor if ABU is detected.
Dehydration can also cause dark, cloudy and smelly urine. So make sure to hydrate properly.

How do I know if the UTI is gone?

After you have finished your antibiotics, your doctor will often ask you to perform an additional urine test. This will confirm whether or not the bacteria are still present.

Can I have sex if I have a UTI?

Because UTIs are not sexually transmitted, it is possible for you to have sex while you have a UTI, or while you are being treated for a UTI.

What can I do to prevent a UTI?

There are several measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of an infection. Some of the following may help:
  • Stay hydrated
  • Take showers not baths
  • Go to the toilet directly after sex
  • Go when you feel you need to, don’t wait
  • Try to completely empty your bladder
  • Always wipe from front to back
  • Take extra care to keep your genital area clean
  • Use proper cleaning products, avoid harsh soaps
  • Use a barrier cream to help soothe sensitive genital skin

What should I do if I suspect a UTI?

First and foremost, see your doctor.