Bladder infections, also known as Urinary tract infections (UTIs), are amongst the most common types of bacterial infections being diagnosed today. These infections occur when bacteria enter the usually sterile urinary tract and multiply and cause painful urination and other symptoms.
While it can affect anyone, certain factors during pregnancy make pregnant women particularly vulnerable to UTIs. Before we dig into how to keep UTIs at bay, let’s understand why UTIs are common in pregnant women.
The anatomy of the urinary tract changes when a woman is pregnant. For instance, the kidneys become larger and the growing uterus can compress the ureters and bladder. Because of this compression, emptying the bladder fully becomes difficult and the increase in progesterone and estrogen levels during pregnancy can also weaken the bladder and ureters additionally.
Pregnancy also alters the makeup of urine, reducing the acidity and increasing the amount of protein, hormones, and sugar in it, which might encourage bacterial growth. These are some of the factors that increase the chance of developing a UTI in pregnancy. Hence urinalysis and urine culture at 3 to 4 months into the pregnancy is recommended.
What are the common causes of UTIs?
Your urinary tract is normally free of bacteria. If bacteria enter the tract and multiply, they can cause a UTI. There are several factors that increase the risk of developing an infection:
- Common bacteria from the Gastrointestinal tract contaminate the urinary tract
- Sex can also be another common cause of UTIs as the bacteria moving around the genital area could enter the urinary tract
- Weak pelvic muscles may lead to the bladder not emptying completely, which will lead to the infections
- Diabetes is also a common cause as the sugar content in the urine of the women with diabetes is also high causing the bacteria to multiply.
- Women with diabetes are at increased risk of developing a UTI since the sugar in their urine may cause bacteria to multiply
Are UTIs Dangerous During Pregnancy?
UTIs during pregnancy can pose a serious risk of kidney infections. Such infections during pregnancy can be more dangerous to pregnant women than to non-pregnant women. These infections in some cases might also lead to preterm labor.
They also pose a risk of low birth weight in babies. Women who have a UTI in pregnancy also have a higher risk of developing preeclampsia, due to high blood pressure. UTIs are also likely to alter a pregnant woman’s inflammatory response.
Risks to the baby?
UTIs during pregnancy can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure leading to the baby being born early or smaller than usual. For that reason, it becomes extremely important for pregnant women to treat UTIs on priority if there are no symptoms.
How are UTIs diagnosed?
UTIs are diagnosed by taking a urine sample and then they are checked in laboratories for bacteria. In some cases, doctors may also perform a physical examination if they think there is an infection.
All pregnant women are offered a urine test, usually at their first antenatal visit or soon after. Repeating the urine test may be needed if there is a history of UTIs.
Drinking plenty of water is important in treating UTIs in order to flush out the urinary tract. UTIs in pregnant women are treated with antibiotics that are safe for pregnancy. The right antibiotics are prescribed based on the infection and the type of bacteria found in the urine sample.
Can UTIs be prevented?
Few tips to lower the risk of developing a UTI during pregnancy:
- Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water is one of the best ways to prevent UTIs during pregnancy
- Being prompt in treating any vaginal infection that may occur, can reduce the risk of infections
- Make sure that you are not constipated