A urinary tract infection is, in itself, a troublesome condition. But pregnant women must be even more careful once they’ve contracted this infection.
In relation to UTIs and pregnancy, we already know that women are more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men. It’s estimated that around 50% to 60% of females will experience some form of this illness once in their lives. This is because of a combination of several factors, including the following:
● Anatomical structure. Women’s shorter urethra and shorter perineum (area between the anus and vulva) make it easier for UTI-causing bacteria to enter the urinary tract.
● Sexual activity. Sexually active women have higher chances of contracting a UTI, commonly in the form of cystitis or bladder infection. This is because sexual activity can increase friction in the genital area and thus encourage the spread of bacteria.
In this article, however, we’re going to zone in on UTIs and pregnancy.
Why are pregnant women more prone to UTIs?
Infections in the urinary tract are among the most common complications of pregnancy. It’s primarily because of the increase in the hormone progesterone experienced by expectant mothers. Higher levels of this bodily chemical decreases the muscle tone of the ureters (tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder), which then slows urine flow.
Another factor, of course, is the uterus’ enlargement. As it expands, it places weight on the ureters and bladder, which makes it harder for urine to get out of the body.
There’s also a condition called urine reflux, which happens when urine flows back up from the bladder to the ureters. This is caused by the bladder’s weakening muscle tone during pregnancy.
Lastly, the urine becomes less acidic and more likely to contain glucose during pregnancy, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive.
All of these factors can promote bacteria buildup in the bladder and ureters, which then predisposes a woman to UTIs.
Should you worry about this case?
Because UTIs during pregnancy are fairly common, you don’t need to worry too much if you’ve started getting its symptoms. If all you’re experiencing are painful urination, pelvic discomfort or lower abdominal pain, and a frequent urge to pee, you’re most likely suffering from a lower UTI or cystitis. Although you have to seek medical advice to diagnose and treat this condition, it can rarely cause serious damage to you or your baby.
However, you should be careful about asymptomatic UTIs. Some pregnant women can be experiencing an infection, whether in their kidneys or bladder, and not be able to detect it, due to a lack of symptoms. In these cases, you may be more likely to develop an upper UTI or a kidney infection. The danger here is that this is associated with low birth weight and preterm birth.
You should thus watch out for severe UTI symptoms. These include:
● stomach pains
● contractions in the abdominal area
How are UTIs diagnosed and treated during pregnancy?
Expecting mothers, especially those who tend to get recurring UTIs, need to look after themselves closely during pregnancy. Regular visits to your medical provider can help you detect the early signs of a troublesome infection. A urinalysis must be part of your routine health evaluations so your doctor can determine any irregularities in your urinary processes.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics for UTI that can safely be taken during pregnancy. For more severe cases, such as a kidney infection, you may be hospitalized for 1 to 2 days up to a week, depending on your case. If you’re responding well to treatment, your medical provider may then put you under a low-dose antibiotics regimen for the rest of your pregnancy. This will help you avoid future infection, thus keeping you and your baby safe from the complications of UTI.