When pregnant, women take great care to look after their body and ensure that it is in optimal health to support the growing fetus. However, some infections that are minor in non-pregnant women can be a source of stress in those growing a child.
UTIs are one type of infection common during pregnancy. Despite this, UTIs are easily treatable, which is vital to avoid potential complications such as early labor, low birth weight, or even miscarriage.
What Is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection of any part of the urinary tract, including the ureters, urethra, bladder, or kidneys. However, it most commonly infects the bladder and, as such, may also be referred to as a bladder infection.
Some of the symptoms of a UTI include:
- burning sensation when urinating
- frequently and urgently needing to urinate
- blood in the urine
- strong smelling or cloudy urine
- pain in the abdomen, lower back, and sides
However, many pregnant women with a UTI may not have any symptoms, making detection more challenging.
What Will Happen If a Pregnant Woman Has a UTI?
UTIs are very common in pregnancy because of multiple factors. The first is the changes in the body that occur with pregnancy, which can cause your urine to have more protein, sugar, and hormones in it. These changes make it more likely for bacteria to grow within the urinary tract.
Additionally, when pregnant, the growing uterus can press against the bladder, making it more difficult to completely empty your bladder when urinating. This allows bacteria to sit and grow, causing a UTI.
While UTIs are generally not a concern, there are some worries when someone who is pregnant has one.
Can A UTI Cause a Miscarriage?
A UTI alone cannot cause a miscarriage. However, complications from a UTI can, which makes early treatment all the more important.
If left untreated, a bladder infection can spread to the kidneys, causing a kidney infection. Since the kidneys provide direct access to the bloodstream, this increases the risk of the infection spreading through the blood, which can cause a severe type of whole-body infection called sepsis. When sepsis occurs, the risk of miscarriage increases.
Can Taking Antibiotics for A UTI Cause a Miscarriage?
There are some antibiotics that have been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage when taken within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. A study on 8,702 women found that the following antibiotics can increase miscarriage risk:
These antibiotics were shown to increase the risk after considering other contributing factors, such as age and other health issues. However, the researchers emphasize that they could not determine if the miscarriages resulted from the antibiotic or the infection.
Many of the antibiotics prescribed for UTIs in pregnant women, though, are not included in this list. These antibiotics, which are not associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, include:
A short course of these antibiotics is unlikely to harm the developing fetus, and research suggests that leaving a UTI without treatment is far more dangerous than taking antibiotics.
Can A UTI Cause Any Harm in Early Pregnancy?
A UTI on its own is not dangerous to the growing fetus, even during the early parts of pregnancy.
Most complications due to UTIs will occur in the later stages of pregnancy. For example, an untreated UTI may develop into a kidney infection and sepsis, which could cause early labor and a low birth rate.
What Should You Do When You Get a UTI While Pregnant?
If you suspect you have a UTI while pregnant, it is crucial to see a doctor right away to begin treatment. While a mild UTI will not cause any problems, it can become more severe and cause serious complications if left untreated.
Treating a UTI during pregnancy typically involves a course of oral antibiotics that lasts 3-7 days. Antibiotic treatment is safe and considerably safer than the risk of leaving the UTI untreated and developing a kidney infection.
In the case of a kidney infection, treatment involves antibiotics received through an IV at a hospital.
While antibiotics are the only way to cure a UTI, women who are pregnant can also find relief from UTI symptoms as the antibiotic works to clear the infection.
Drinking plenty of water is crucial for helping the antibiotic as it flushes bacteria out of the urinary tract. Along these same lines, it is also recommended to urinate whenever the feeling comes to further help push out the harmful bacteria. Certain foods, such as citrus fruits, dark chocolate, and probiotic yogurts can also help to provide UTI relief.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Because of the potential for UTIs to become serious if left untreated, it is recommended to see a doctor as soon as any symptoms of a UTI appear.
This is especially true for mothers near their due date, as in some cases, the UTI can transfer to the newborn baby through delivery, which can cause rare but severe complications to the baby that include sepsis, permanent brain damage, or meningitis.
How To Prevent a UTI?
Women are more susceptible to UTIs due to their anatomy, which places the anus closer to the urethra and leaves them with a shorter urethra, which allows bacteria to more easily infect the bladder. Because of this, women should take certain preventative measures.
The most important way to prevent UTIs is by drinking enough water and urinating whenever the feeling arises.
Certain hygiene practices, such as wiping from front to back after going to the bathroom and washing the genitals before and after sex, can also help to prevent UTIs. Urinating after sex also helps to reduce infection.
Pregnant women typically have UTI screenings in early pregnancy, and it is essential to undergo these screenings to prevent UTI infections or detect and treat them early.
How Can DrHouse Help You?
If you are pregnant and believe you have a UTI, it is important to reach out to a doctor immediately. With DrHouse, you can talk to a doctor in just 15 minutes, providing quick and convenient guidance. Through your virtual appointment, your online doctor can discuss your symptoms and prescribe an antibiotic.
UTIs are common infections during pregnancy but require prompt treatment to avoid more severe infections and the resulting complications.
Miscarriage is a common concern surrounding infections while pregnant, but a UTI alone does not cause a miscarriage. However, if a UTI is left untreated, it can become a kidney infection, which increases the risk of miscarriage and other complications such as early labor and low birth weight.
Treatment for a UTI during pregnancy involves a short course of antibiotics, which is a safe treatment that is superior to risking a kidney infection. For those experiencing UTI symptoms, an online doctor can quickly and conveniently prescribe the antibiotics you need to fight the infection and protect your baby.
- Antibiotic Use among Women with Urinary Tract Infections in the First Trimester of Pregnancy and Birth Defects. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/features/kf-women-antibiotic-use-1st-trimeter-birthdefects.html
- Urinary Tract Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html
- Ailes, E., et al. (2018). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): Antibiotics Dispensed to Privately Insured Pregnant Women with Urinary Tract Infections – United States, 2014. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6701a4.htm?s_cid=mm6701a4_e
- Muanda, F., Sheehy, O., & Bérard, A. (2017). Use of antibiotics during pregnancy and risk of spontaneous abortion. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 189(17), E625-E633. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.161020
- Ghouri, F., Hollywood, A., & Ryan, K. (2019). Urinary tract infections and antibiotic use in pregnancy – qualitative analysis of online forum content. BMC Pregnancy And Childbirth, 19(1). doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2451-z
- Habak PJ, Griggs, Jr RP. Urinary Tract Infection In Pregnancy. [Updated 2022 Jul 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537047/
- Kalinderi, K., Delkos, D., Kalinderis, M., Athanasiadis, A., & Kalogiannidis, I. (2018). Urinary tract infection during pregnancy: current concepts on a common multifaceted problem. Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology, 38(4), 448-453. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1080/01443615.2017.1370579
- Ghouri, F., Hollywood, A., & Ryan, K. (2018). A systematic review of non-antibiotic measures for the prevention of urinary tract infections in pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy And Childbirth, 18(1). doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1186/s12884-018-1732-2
- Balachandran, L., Jacob, L., Al Awadhi, R., Yahya, L., Catroon, K., & Soundararajan, L. et al. (2022). Urinary Tract Infection in Pregnancy and Its Effects on Maternal and Perinatal Outcome: A Retrospective Study. Cureus. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.7759/cureus.21500