UTIs can be especially dangerous during pregnancy. Here's your cheat sheet on the symptoms, causes, how to prevent UTIs, and safe antibiotics for treatment.
In addition to higher blood circulation and bladder pressure, could a UTI be the reason you have the frequent urge to urinate? Between 2 to 10 percent of pregnant women will experience at least one or several UTIs during pregnancy.
Here’s what you need to know about symptoms and treatments to keep you and your baby healthy.
Why are UTIs common during pregnancy?
You are more prone to getting a UTI while pregnant because of changes in the urinary tract:
- Your uterus sits directly on top of the bladder (a visual reference), and as your uterus grows, this weight keeps the bladder from emptying properly. Like stagnant swamp water, urine is full of toxins and bacteria that can cause infections when it isn’t expelled from the body.
- Anytime from six weeks on, 90% of women experience urethral dilation: when the urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder outside of your body) expands. This longer urinary tract, paired with increased bladder volume, causes the urine to become more stagnant in the urethra.
- Your urine is more concentrated during pregnancy with hormones and sugar. This facilitates bacterial growth and makes it harder for your body to fight off the “bad” bacteria.
- If you’ve had UTIs before, you are more likely to get them during pregnancy.
How do you know you have a UTI?
While that can only be diagnosed by your healthcare provider with a urinalysis or urine culture, here are the symptoms:
- Painful, burning urination.
- Cloudy, murky, or bloody urine
- Lower back pain, lower abdominal pain.
- Frequent urination or the frequent urge to urinate.
- Only urinating small amounts
- Fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting.
Keep in mind, you may not experience symptoms. Chaunie Brusie, R.N., wrote for Healthline, “I was surprised I’d tested positive for a UTI. I had no symptoms, so I didn’t think that I could have an infection. The doctor discovered it based on my routine urine test. After four pregnancies, I had started to think that they were just making us preggos pee in a cup for fun. But I guess there’s a purpose to it. Who knew?”
How serious is a UTI while pregnant?
Any type of infection while pregnant can be serious for you and your baby. If a UTI goes untreated, it can spread to your kidneys and cause a kidney infection (pyelonephritis). This can cause early labor and low birth weight. Acute pyelonephritis can be life-threatening for you and your baby and can cause permanent kidney damage.
If your doctor treats a UTI properly in its early stages, it will most likely not harm your baby.
What about antibiotics?
The only way to cure a UTI is with antibiotics. It is imperative to know which antibiotics are pregnancy safe:
- Common antibiotics for UTIs such as nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, have been linked to birth defects. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends avoiding these antibiotics in early pregnancy.
- A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 4 in 10 women with UTIs during early pregnancy were prescribed nitrofurantoin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.
- Your healthcare provider should be familiar with ACOG’s recommendations when it comes to prescribing specific antibiotics to pregnant women. Given the aforementioned study, not every doctor is as clued in as we hoped they’d be, so if you are in the early stages of pregnancy, steer clear of nitrofurantoin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.
- Doctors usually prescribe a 3 to 7-day course of antibiotics that are safe for you and your baby. Take every last antibiotic pill, even if you are no longer experiencing symptoms.
- Contact your doctor if you have a fever, chills, lower stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, contractions, or if after taking antibiotics for three days, you still have a burning feeling when you urinate.
How can I avoid UTIs while pregnant?
- Go to your regular prenatal check-ups, routine urine tests will detect a UTI.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid sitting in a bath, shower instead.
- Ditch the douches, feminine sprays, and harsh soaps in the genital area.
- Wear cotton underwear, go commando at night.
- Urinate after sex. Do not have sex while being treated for a UTI.
- Wipe front to back.
- Drink Uqora—an effective way to cause out UTI-causing bacteria using natural, safe ingredients.
As if the headaches, lower back pain, morning sickness, and heartburn weren’t enough already, you’re at a greater risk for getting a UTI while pregnant, especially if you’ve had one before. Even if you are doing everything in your power to keep on top of your urinary health for you and your baby, you’re only human (growing another human) and you might need extra help. That's where we come in! Try Uqora to stay UTI-free.