Never Get Another UTI While You’re Pregnant

December 3, 2019

Urinary tract infections or bladder infections (UTIs) are common in pregnancy with between 2-10% of women diagnosed with them while pregnant. Pregnant women are at increased risk for UTIs starting in week 6 through week 24. So if you’re in a similar situation, this info might help you maintain your urologic health and your sanity throughout your pregnancy.

How Do You Get a UTI?

Normal urine is sterile and contains no bacteria. However, bacteria may get into the urine and travel from the urethra into the bladder causing a UTI. Bacteria can grow in damp, dark, moist areas. It accesses the body through the urethra or through small tears in the skin. Bacteria is also present on the skin and the rectal area. The abundance of bacteria in this area is why your urologic health should be paid extra attention.

Women have shorter urethras than men, allowing for bacteria to have easier access to the bladder to grow. UTIs can cause the lining of the bladder and urethra to become red, irritated and inflamed which causes symptoms. If the bacteria moves up the urinary tract into the kidneys, it is then classified as a kidney infection (pyelonephritis). Symptoms of a kidney infection are similar to a UTI, but often include back pain, fever, nausea or vomiting and blood in the urine. Kidney infections are a more serious condition and should be treated quickly.

How Do Pregnant Women Get a UTI?

Pregnant women are more prone to UTIs because the growing fetus puts pressure on the bladder and the urinary tract, often trapping bacteria or causing urine to leak.

Additionally, as early as six weeks gestation, most pregnant women experience urethral dilation causing the urethra to expand. Therefore, the larger urinary tract coupled with an increased bladder volume and decreased bladder muscle tone causes the urine to stay in the urethra, allowing for a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. A terrible situation for your urologic health.

Finally, women who are pregnant often have more concentrated urine with hormones and sugars that can encourage bacterial growth and lower the body’s ability to combat bacteria. Pregnant women often have recurring UTIs and women who have had UTIs prior to pregnancy or have had children previously are more prone to experience UTIs during pregnancy.

Typical symptoms of a UTI when pregnant include:

– Burning or painful urination (dysuria)
– Cloudy urine
– Urinary urgency
– Urinary frequency
– Urinary incontinence
– Frequent urination with little urinary output
– Malodorous urine
– Bladder pressure or pain
– Pelvic or lower back pain
– Blood-tinged urine (hematuria)
– Nausea or vomiting
– Fever over 102 degrees F

UTIs and kidney infections are diagnosed by an exam, a urinalysis and definitively by a urine culture, where the urine is sent to a lab and an attempt to grow bacteria out of the urine over a period of time is performed. If bacteria is found to be present in the urine, it is then tested for sensitivity to antibiotics – so the most sensitive antibiotic to “kill” the bacteria can be used if compatible with pregnancy.

How to Prevent UTI’s During Pregnancy

– Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to flush the urinary tract.
– Insure you are wiping correctly after urinating: wipe yourself from front to back when you go to the bathroom.
– Do not hold your urine. Go to the bathroom frequently (every 3-4 hours) and when the initial urge develops.
– Take high-grade cranberry tablets daily or drink 8 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice a day. Studies have shown some success in the prevention of UTIs with the consumption of cranberry juice or cranberry tablets. If taking cranberry tablets, it is important to pick a cranberry tablet that is reputable, as some have more of the active “ingredient” needed to be preventative than others. This also applies to D-Mannose supplements.
– Allow the vaginal area to “breathe” as much as possible. This can be done by wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing.
– Avoid applying soap directly to the vaginal/urethra area. Allowing soap to run over the area from body wash is not a problem, as long as it is washed thoroughly with clean water.
– Wash daily. Overall good hygiene will help prevent bacterial growth and promote urologic health.
– Urinate after intercourse in order to flush the urinary tract.
– Treat constipation by eating more fiber.
– Avoid baths/hot tubs. Showers are ideal when pregnant so that exposure to bacteria is limited. Avoid soaking in any water that is not treated.
– Do not use any creams, lotions or douching products in the vaginal area while pregnant.
– Change out of wet clothing and underwear as quickly as possible to avoid bacterial growth. This includes swimsuits and work out clothing.
– Rinse the vaginal area with clean water using a spray bottle after urination.
– Rinse with clean water and dry the vaginal area completely after intercourse.
– If lubricants are needed during intercourse, only use water-based lubricants. Rinse and dry the area immediately after use. Avoiding lubricants entirely is ideal.

What Are Your Options?

UTIs are common and easy to prevent and treat in all women, even in pregnancy. If your urologic health is being pestered by recurring UTIs, oftentimes more aggressive, preventative treatment options are available and additional labs/tests may be ordered to rule out other causes that are contributory.

Interested in learning more about what you can do to encourage urologic health and prevent UTI’s? Drop us a note or give us a call at 512-535-2174.