Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are common during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones cause changes in the urinary tract which make infections more likely. In addition, as the uterus grows it presses on the bladder and can prevent complete emptying of urine. This stagnant urine is a likely source of infection. Untreated, these infections may lead to kidney infections. Urinary tract infections in pregnant women should be treated to prevent complications such as the infection spreading to the kidneys and causing premature labour.
Additionally, certain STDs can cause urinary tract infections if the bacteria spread to the urethra rather than or in addition to the sex organs. For example, chlamydia can cause urinary tract infections, and its symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from other types of UTIs. Being pregnant makes you more susceptible to UTIs. Progesterone relaxes the muscles of your ureters, the tubes that connect your kidneys to your bladder. This slows down the flow of wee from your kidneys to your bladder. Your enlarging uterus (womb) has the same effect. This is an ideal opportunity for bacteria because they have more time to grow before they’re flushed out.
Urinary tract infection symptoms include:
- Feeling an urgent need to urinate or frequent urination
- Having difficulty urinating
- Having a burning sensation or cramps in the lower back or lower abdomen
- Having a burning sensation during urination
- Urine that looks cloudy or has an odor
If you think you have a urinary tract infection, seek medical advice. A doctor can test a small sample of urine for bacteria and red and white blood cells. The urine may also be tested to see what kind of bacteria are in the urine (called a urine culture). If your infection is causing discomfort, you will probably be given treatment anyway before the urine test results come back.
Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. You will need to take the medicine for 3-7 days or as determined by your health care provider. The symptoms should go away in three days. Don’t stop taking your medication early, even if the symptoms go away (unless instructed by your health care provider).
One can avoid getting a UTI by following certain steps-
- Taking the following precautions should reduce your chance of getting a UTI:
- After going to the toilet, wipe yourself from front to back to prevent bacteria from your back passage being spread to your front passage (urethra).
- Wash between your legs every day.
- Don’t use strong soaps, scented bubble baths, shower gels, douches, antiseptic creams or feminine hygiene products. These may destroy the good bacteria and irritate your urinary tract.
- Empty your bladder completely when you go to the toilet.
- Go to the toilet soon after having sex
- Avoid long or very frequent baths and have showers instead.
- Wear cotton knickers and loose clothes, rather than tight jeans and trousers. It’s also best not to wear tights, but if you do wear them, put on clean ones daily.
- Change your underwear every day.
- Treat constipation as soon as possible.
- Drink plenty, especially water.