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Urinary tract infection in pregnancy: How to take care of yourself and the baby

More than 50 per cent women experience UTI at least once in their lifetime and nearly 30-40 per cent of these infections relapse within six months.

Updated: December 20, 2019 12:53:23 pm
uti during pregnancy About 10 per cent of women get UTI at some point during their pregnancy. (Source: Getty Images)

By Dr Karnika Tiwari

UTI during pregnancy: A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system — kidneys, ureters, bladders and urethra. Most infections are caused in the lower urinary tract – the bladder and urethra. In cases where it affects the upper tract, there are greater chances of urosepsis, a condition where the infection can pass from the kidney to the blood. This can cause sudden lowering of blood pressure and even death over time. More than 50 per cent women experience UTI at least once in their lifetime and nearly 30-40 per cent of these infections relapse within six months.

UTIs are given different names depending on the area in which they occur. The proximity of the urethra and anus help in the easy passage of the bacteria into the urinary tract in women. About 75-90 per cent of bladder infections occur in young and sexually active women and especially among pregnant women there is a higher chance of contracting UTIs.

UTI during pregnancy

Statistics indicate that about 10 per cent of women get UTI at some point during their pregnancy. This is for certain physical and hormonal changes owing to the expansion of the urinary tract and the presence of hormones in the urine, making it more concentrated. These in turn make the urinary tract more susceptible to bacterial growth and can cause UTIs in pregnancy.

While the occurrence of UTI during pregnancy is common, women must be more careful not to get infected. This is because the high levels of progesterone decrease the muscle tone of the ureters and bladder, which in turn can lead to reflux, where urine flows back up the ureters and towards the kidneys. Such an infection can increase complications and even lead to premature birth or preeclampsia.

Symptoms of UTI during pregnancy

The common symptoms of UTI during pregnancy include a strong urge to urinate, burning sensation while urinating, and passing frequent, small amounts of urine, cloudy urine, a sign of blood in the urine, strong smelling urine and pelvic pain in women.

Treatment and management

Depending on the type of infection (bacterial, fungal, or viral), UTI is treated with antibiotics or other medication. Antibiotics are prescribed based on what part of the urinary tract is affected. If it is the upper tract, an extensive antibiotic course is given with the dosage directly inserted into the veins. Simple oral dosage is suggested for lower tract UTI. However, considering the health of the mother and the baby, antibiotics must be prescribed rationally and only when required.

Also Read| Pregnancy dos and don’ts for each trimester, from a gynae

Precautionary measures

1. Maintain proper personal hygiene after urinating or defecating. Wipe the seat of the lavatory in a public restroom before use. This is particularly true for women as they are more susceptible to an associated infection. Consult a doctor immediately in case of any infection or symptoms.

2. Wear clean cotton underwear to prevent the chances of contracting a UTI.

3. Keep your genital area clean. Avoid using harsh soaps or body washes in the area as these may cause itching and irritation. You can opt for a pH neutral wash for the genital area.

4. Drinking cranberry juice has been thought to help decrease frequent infections. This is particularly true for women. Cranberries have substances which help in preventing infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls.

5. Make sure you are adequately hydrated and drink at least seven to eight glasses of water a day.

(The writer is Consultant-Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Motherland Hospital, Noida.)

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