UTI in Pregnancy Is No Bundle of Joy

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First off, congrats! A little one’s on the way! This is a very exciting time. But sometimes — like when you get a urinary tract infection (UTI) during pregnancy — it can seem like more than you bargained for.

A UTI is a common urinary system infection that’s usually caused by bacteria. As many as 20 percent of women get a UTI during pregnancy, making it one of the most frequent illnesses of moms to be.

As if you didn’t already have enough going on down there, amiright?

That’s a valid question. And the answer is: many factors might be coming into play.

Everyday reasons

  • You’re biologically female (aka your bits are really close together so it’s easy for bad bacteria to travel around).
  • You’re sexually active.
  • You’ve had a UTI before.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You’re carrying some extra weight.
  • You have poor hygiene.
  • You’re getting older.
  • You have a structural problem in your urinary tract.

The pregnancy multiplier

Expectant moms are subject to the amplifiers below, too. Joy.

  • Hormones galore: During pregnancy, your urine gets more concentrated and contains bacteria-promoting hormones and sugar.
  • Body dynamics: Pregnancy causes certain physiological changes that can increase bacterial presence and make it even easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.

The list of symptoms includes many of the usual suspects:

  • pain or burning while urinating
  • frequent need to pee
  • urge to pee despite having an empty bladder
  • leaking urine
  • cloudy, discolored, or bloody urine
  • foul-smelling pee
  • pressure, tenderness, achiness or cramps in your midsection
  • chills, sweats, or a temperature
  • pain during sex

Be on the lookout for the telltale signs of a UTI above. But, the truth is that 2 to 11 percent of pregnant women don’t experience any symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Proper prenatal care is key to staying on top of any health concerns, including a UTI.

See a doctor right away if you experience any of the symptoms typically associated with UTIs. With quick attention, you can nip it in the bud and get back to concentrating on how to decorate the nursery.

If a UTI isn’t treated, it can spread to the kidneys. Symptoms of a kidney infection tend to be more severe and can include:

  • mid-back pain
  • fatigue
  • chills
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting

Kidney infections are bad news. They require immediate medical care, so visit your doctor ASAP.

Many conditions, such as STDs or other gynecological infections, have similar symptoms. So it’s important to know for sure what you’re dealing with.

Only your healthcare provider can confirm a UTI diagnosis. Your doctor will perform a simple urine test to check for signs of bacteria. (That’s why you’re always peeing in a cup! Lightbulb moment.)

Depending upon the specifics of your case, your doctor will prescribe treatment.

Infection

A UTI is usually resolved with a 3-day round of antibiotics, such as:

  • fosfomycin
  • cephalosporins
  • nitrofurantoin

Often symptoms disappear within a few days of starting the meds. (Yay!) However, it’s essential that you finish the full course of antibiotics to make sure your infection is completely gone.

Pain

If you’re feeling discomfort, ask your doctor about taking an over-the-counter pain medicine. A heating pad may also relieve your sore belly or back. And adjust your clothing so it’s more comfy while you heal.

Surely there are ingredients lurking in the pantry that will fix this sitch? Sorry to burst your bubble, but science says your UTI probably needs conventional treatment.

That said, nature’s cupboard may supplement your medicine cabinet. Here are some natural home remedies that show promise:

  • Try cranberry juice or supplements. In theory, compounds in this fruit kill bugs that make you sick. Research doesn’t prove this one, but there’s no harm in it either.
  • Drink a lot of water. This will dilute your urine and help flush out bacteria that’s hanging out in the bladder.
  • Eat foods with probiotics. Probiotics bolster your “good” gut bacteria that help prevent and cure illness. It’s also a good idea right after taking antibiotics as those can wipe out the good gut bacteria with the bad.
  • Clean eating is on the menu. Eat nutritious foods that nurture your healing body.
  • Go for the garlic. This potent herb may be effective in snuffing out the bacteria linked to UTIs.
  • Give supplements a whirl. Many supplements reportedly help provide relief from UTI symptoms or help eliminate the infection. Here are some to look into: d-mannose, marshmallow root, uva-ursi, goldenseal, and vitamin C.

FYI

Run your DIY treatments by your doctor before starting them. Make sure there are no issues with your alternate (or additional) care plan.

Sometimes things aren’t always clear-cut or don’t go according to plan. Health is one of those things.

Complications from a UTI or its treatment are rare. Some risks are particular to pregnant women and their babies. If needed, these can be addressed with your doctor.

  • Untreated UTI: Not treating your UTI is the biggest threat, much more so than any of the items below.
  • Persistent infection: The antibiotics didn’t do the trick. Your doctor may try a different medicine, run additional tests, or refer you to a specialist.
  • Kidney infection: The infection spread to your kidneys. Your doctor will need to determine the best options for treating this condition.
  • Side effects to antibiotics: This can range from a minor rash to serious illnesses (such as antibiotic-resistant infections or C. diff).
  • Impacts on baby’s health: UTI can result in premature births, low birth weight, or both.
  • Death: Maternal or infant mortality is super rare. But, it can result from infection, adverse reaction to the medicines, or miscarriage.

Thankfully, there are many ways you can help prevent a UTI. You ladies out there who like to take control, this list is for you:

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Pee regularly and whenever you need to.
  • Wipe front-to-back when you go to the bathroom.
  • Shower instead of bathe, and use warm water and mild soap to wash your genital area.
  • Don’t use douches, powder, feminine sprays, or perfume, in or near your genitals.
  • Wear clean undies with a cotton crotch, but sleep without panties on.
  • Avoid pants that don’t “let ya breathe.”
  • Avoid refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, spicy food, and nicotine.
  • Ask your doctor about taking vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zinc to boost your body’s infection-fighting powers.
  • Urinate before and after sex.
  • Use physical barriers (like a condom) during sex.
  • Don’t have sex while you have a UTI, or while you’re recovering from one.
  • Keep anything that has touched your anus and has not been thoroughly cleaned, away from your genitals.

Expectant moms are especially prone to UTI due to physiological and situational changes that occur during pregnancy.

Be mindful of the symptoms and — if you think you might be sick — consult your physician as soon as possible. Many women don’t have symptoms though, which is why your routine checkups are so important.

Untreated UTI can result in serious illnesses that can impact you and your baby’s health. Fortunately, diagnosis and treatment are readily available. Complications from the UTI and treatment are rare. And better still, there are many ways you can minimize your chances of getting a UTI.

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