Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are fairly common during pregnancy, particularly during the 6th week through the 24th week of gestation. A UTI can be especially troubling during pregnancy since two major symptoms are urgency to urinate and increased frequency of urination. However, these exact same symptoms are normal in every pregnancy. Therefore, it may be difficult to recognize a UTI at the beginning.
Signs and symptoms of UTI
It is important to recognize both the signs (what you or anyone can observe) as well as the symptoms (what you experience having the condition) of UTI. Here they are:
- Pain, burning, and discomfort when urinating.
- Increased urinary frequency. This means going to the bathroom more often than you would during a healthy pregnancy. Additionally, you may feel unsatisfied after peeing, as if you did not completely empty your bladder. Or, you may have to push harder in order to empty it.
- Urine that is dark and/or cloudy.
- Cramps, chills, high fever, sweats, shaking, flank or back pain, nausea, vomiting. This group of symptoms suggests that the infection is moving to the upper urinary tract, developing into acute pyelonephritis. This is an emergency and you must go to the doctor or hospital immediately.
- Pain during intercourse.
Potential effect of UTI on the baby
If left untreated, a lower UTI can develop into an upper UTI, manifesting as acute pyelonephritis (infection of the kidney). This can cause early labor and also potentially harm your child.
Treatment of UTI
A UTI can be treated during pregnancy with antibiotics, which are safe for both you and your baby. The treatment usually lasts 5 to 7 days, but the pain will subside within a couple of days of beginning taking the medication. If you experience constant burning, blood discharge, or nausea after 7 days of treatment, you need to go to your doctor or hospital immediately, as you may have developed an upper UTI.
Prevention of UTI
You cannot prevent all UTIs; however, there are some strategies that you can implement to reduce the risk:
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water every day.
- In addition to water, you can drink unsweetened cranberry juice 1-3 times per day. This will help acidify the urine, making a UTI extremely unlikely.
- Empty your bladder whenever you feel like urinating. Do not hold it in. Also, empty your bladder before and especially after sexual intercourse.
- Blot dry your genital area after you urinate. You can use water to clean it followed by spot drying.
- Change your underwear on a regular basis, even twice a day.
- Minimize your time in the bathtub or, better yet, take showers.