During pregnancy, chances of UTI go up because hormonal changes in the body create the ideal environment for UTI-causing bacteria like Escherichia coli.
Also the increase of progesterone causes the muscles lining the urethras to relax, which can allow bacteria to rise up into the bladder and possibly the kidneys more easily during pregnancy.
The uterus which carries the womb sits directly on top of the urinary bladder. As the uterus expands with the growing foetus, the increased weight blocks the drainage of urine from the bladder, causing an infection.
The enlarged uterus also prevents mothers from emptying the bladder completely while urination and this leaves a pool of urine in which bacteria can multiply.
Sex can also cause urinary tract infections. Bacteria from the colon and vagina can get into the urethra during foreplay and intercourse. Other causes of UTIs include infrequent urination (urinating effectively clear germs from the bladder and urethra), and urinary tract abnormalities, or other chronic conditions such as diabetes.
There are mainly two broad types of UTI:
- Cystitis or bladder infection.
In this case, bacteria grow in the bladder and multiply there, causing inflammation and eventually bladder infection.
Cystitis is fairly common among sexually active women between the ages of 20 and 50.
- Kidney infection.
In this case, bacteria travel from the bladder up through the ureters to infect one or both kidneys.
A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is the most common serious medical complication. If not treated on time, the infection can spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening too.
Common symptoms of UTI are:
- Pain or burning sensation while urinating
- Urge to urinate more often than usual
- Presence of blood or mucus in the urine
- Cramps or pain in the lower abdomen
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Chills, fever, sweats, leaking of urine (incontinence)
- Sudden change in the amount of urine – either more or less
- Urine that looks cloudy smells foul or unusually strong
- Pain, pressure, or tenderness in the area of the bladder
- With the spread of bacteria to the kidneys, one may experience back pain, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
Some common preventive ways to avert UTIs are:
- Practice good hygiene. Wipe from front to back after urination to prevent the spreading of bacteria.
- Stay hydrated and urinate often. Urinating is an effective way of clearing germs from the bladder and urethra. Try to drink about eight 8-ounce servings of liquids a day.
- Urinate before and after sex. This will help eliminate genital bacteria.
- Urinate frequently. Spend extra few minutes to be able to completely empty the bladder.
- Caffeine and chocolate are a few of the substances that can irritate the bladder, and inflammation makes bacteria more likely to stick around. Avoid them as much as possible.
Urinary tract infections are not a very threatening disease. They are easily curable with effective medication – oral antibiotics mostly. Consult your doctor about which medicine to be taken during pregnancy to deal with UTIs.
In severe cases of a kidney infection during pregnancy, mothers may need to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluid and antibiotics. Temperature, blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and ability to make urine – would all be closely monitored; so will the baby’s heart rate and whether there are any signs of premature labour or not.