Bacteria in your urinary tract during pregnancy can be dangerous. Learn the symptoms, risks, and prevention tips.
Have you ever heard that UTIs can be a bigger issue during pregnancy? Although it isn’t clear that pregnancy directly causes more UTIs, the ramifications of an untreated UTI can be much greater.
To understand why UTIs can be a greater problem during pregnancy, it helps to break the risk down into a couple different areas:
- Cystitis, or bladder infection. Caused by bacteria populating the bladder, Cystitis is probably what most people think of when they think of a UTI.
- Kidney infection. A kidney infection can happen when bacteria travels up through your bladder into your kidneys. Kidney infections can happen when cystitis goes untreated.
- Asymptomatic bacteriuria. When bacteria are present in your urine, but not actively causing an infection or any symptoms, it’s called asymptomatic bacteriuria. When you aren’t pregnant, bacteriuria often clears up on its own.
During pregnancy, the consequences of developing a kidney infection are significantly higher. Kidney infections are the most common serious medical complication during pregnancy. Your kidneys filter out your toxins in your body. If your kidneys are compromised, the infection can spread into your bloodstream and become life-threatening to you. Kidney infections also increase your risk of preterm labor, causing low-birth-weight babies, as well as an increase in fetal or newborn mortality.
Although it is not confirmed that either cystitis nor bacteriuria occur more frequently during pregnancy, the evidence does show that kidney infections happen more frequently during pregnancy.
Why are kidney infections more common during pregnancy? Hormonal changes (specifically, an increase in progesterone) leads to a decrease in muscles done in the tubes between the kidney and the bladder (your ureters) which leads to a slow in urine flow. Additionally, as your uterus grows to accommodate a baby, the ureters might get compressed, slowing urine flow even more.
A similar loss of muscle tone happens in a pregnant woman’s bladder, making it more difficult to completely empty your bladder, making it more likely for urine to flow back up the ureters toward the kidneys. This process is called reflux.
Babycenter.com explains that these issues with the ureters and bladder lead to more bacterial growth:
The upshot of these changes is that it takes longer for urine to pass through your urinary tract, giving bacteria more time to multiply and take hold before being flushed out, and it also becomes easier for the bacteria to travel up to your kidneys. What's more, during pregnancy your urine becomes less acidic and more likely to contain glucose, both of which boost the potential for bacterial growth.
What can you do to minimize your risk of developing a UTI during pregnancy? Ultimately, prevention is similar to steps you would take if you were not pregnant.
Stay in close communication with your physician. Be sure to stay on top of your appointments and confirm that your urine samples are being checked for bacteriuria. Although you might not be able to pinpoint the symptoms, undetected bacteriuria can lead to a kidney infection and should be considered a serious risk throughout your pregnancy.
Drink lots of water. While it may seem like an oversimplification, staying hydrated is the easiest way to prevent UTIs, and promote overall physical well-being
Urinate frequently. It is important that you empty your bladder completely when you use the restroom in order to flush out bacteria. This goes hand in hand with staying hydrated.
As always, urinate after sex. Intercourse is one of the leading causes of UTIs, and pregnancy is no exception.
Stay clean. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria. Showering regularly, particularly after intercourse or exercise, is key to keeping dangerous bacteria at bay.
Try Uqora. Uqora is an effective way to flush out bacteria known to cause UTIs. Uqora’s active ingredients are safe and natural, and have shown more than a 75% reduction in UTI incident. Plus, it tastes like pink lemonade.