UTIs or urinary tract infections are very common whether you are pregnant or not. Some women find that they become more susceptible during pregnancy, due to all the changes going on in the body.
UTIs are usually caused by bacteria getting into your urinary system, your urethra, bladder and in serious cases, kidneys, from either your intestinal tract/bowels, skin or environment.
Why do UTIs occur?
When you’re pregnant, hormones relax the muscles that connect your kidneys to your bladder, slowing down the flow of wee (as does the increasing pressure of your growing uterus).
Sex can also increase your chances as bacteria can enter the urethra during or after intercourse.
If you experienced UTIs frequently before becoming pregnant, you’re more likely to experience them during pregnancy too.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
Some women will experience no symptoms at all, however many of the most common symptoms include:
- Burning sensation when you urinate
- More frequent urination (although this is hard to decipher from regular pregnancy urination)
- An intense urge to urinate – especially when you have already just gone
- Cloudy, dark or bloody urine
- Abdominal pain or discomfort and/or lower back pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Can a UTI be harmful to you or the baby?
If left untreated UTIs can lead to kidney disease as well as birth complications such as pre-eclampsia, early labour and low birth weight.
If left untreated and the UTI does reach your kidney it can then cause major complications to your own health as well.
How to treat a UTI during pregnancy
If you suspect you have a UTI you should speak with your doctor immediately so they can test you (you will have to provide a urine sample) and then they will usually prescribe a course of antibiotics. They will often advise you to drink more water and to take paracetamol for the treatment of any pain.
Your doctor will then likely test you again after you have finished the course of antibiotics to make sure the bacteria has cleared, and they might also want to continue to monitor it for the duration of your pregnancy.
If the infection enters your kidneys while you are pregnant you may be admitted to the hospital for treatment intravenously.
How to prevent a UTI
There are a number of things you can do to help try and prevent a UTI from occurring in the first place:
- Drinking plenty of fluids – predominantly in the form of water
- Going to the toilet often – and emptying your bladder completely. As much as it feels like you’re constantly in the bathroom, don’t fight the urge to go
- Wiping from the front to the back after going to the toilet and always keeping the area clean
- Using mild cleanser (only ever wash the area externally)
- Showers are generally recommended over baths
- Always remember to go to the toilet before and straight after sex
- Wearing cotton underwear and letting the area breathe without underwear overnight when you can
- Avoid synthetic fabrics and wearing anything too tight such as jeans or tights