Pregnancy and urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) develops when bacteria infect your urinary system. They are far more common in women, and are even more likely to occur during pregnancy, due to the physiological changes that are taking place. A UTI that affects the bladder is also known as cystitis, but the infection can move up to the kidneys and become a more serious condition called pyelonephritis.

Can a UTI be harmful to a baby?

There is the possibility that a UTI could do harm to your baby, so it is essential that you see your GP as early as possible once you start experiencing symptoms. A UTI can irritate the womb, which has been known to cause pregnant women to go into labour prematurely. An untreated case of cystitis could develop into pyelonephritis, which can be a danger to both your health and your baby’s as well.

What symptoms should I look out for?

Sometimes a UTI is completely symptomless; a phenomenon which is more common among pregnant women. This is why urine tests are a regular occurrence during antenatal care. If bacteria is discovered in your urine, your GP should be able to treat for infection even if you have no symptoms.

The UTI symptoms to look out for include:

  • a burning sensation when you urinate
  • feeling an urgent need to urinate, or needing to urinate more frequently than usual
  • pain in the lower abdomen or back
  • small amounts of blood in your urine (may look brown in colour)
  • general nausea, fever

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your GP as soon as possible.

What can I do to prevent a UTI developing?

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent a UTI. No proven technique really exists, but there is some evidence of the following precautions being helpful:

  • Don’t ignore a need to urinate, and be sure to empty your bladder fully
  • Empty your bladder right away after sexual intercourse
  • Wipe from front to back after urinating, to avoid the spread of bacteria
  • Use mild, unperfumed cleanser when washing, and take showers rather than baths
  • Wear cotton rather than synthetic underwear, and avoid tight trousers
  • Stay well hydrated

A UTI infection during pregnancy must be addressed as quickly as possible, and the only definitive course of treatment is to take antibiotics. Your GP will be able to prescribe some that are perfectly safe to take during pregnancy, and you can eliminate the risk of the UTI developing into something that could harm you and your baby.

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