How Serious is a Bladder Infection During Pregnancy, and How Did I Get It?

cranberries

Cranberry juice can help if you have a UTI. Image by Melodi2

At your first prenatal visit, your caregiver will usually order labwork. Your doctor may discover bacteria in your urine before you have symptoms, and give you a prescription for antibiotics. Most often, however, women go see their doctor or midwife because they know something is wrong.

Frequent urgency to go to the bathroom, even though you just went—that could be a bladder infection. It may hurt when you pee. Backache and a feeling that you can’t sit comfortably are other common symptoms.

The Medical Term for Bladder Infection is Cystitis

When you have these symptoms, any part of the urinary system can be involved – that’s why we use the term “urinary tract infection,” or UTI. The inflammation may cause cramping that keeps you awake, but that’s not the worst part. An untreated infection could eventually trigger preterm labor, or progress until the kidneys are involved, both of which can land you in the hospital. It’s always better to go sooner, rather than later, to see your midwife or doctor for such symptoms.

Infection most likely starts when bacteria invade the ureter, a tube that leads from your bladder to the outside of your body. Irritants like bubble bath, friction from intimacy, and wiping the wrong way can give germs a foothold. Since men have longer ureters, UTIs are much more common in women. Drinking plenty of water keeps the ureter flushed out and makes it difficult for bacteria to gain entry, so stay hydrated.

During Pregnancy Your Body is More Susceptible to UTIs

The growing uterus changes your contour, both inside and out; a flattened ureter may not be able to clear as easily. If you have had a UTI in the past, you are more likely to develop one again, perhaps because of remaining bacteria, or because of habits that can lead to recurrent infection.


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UTIs can be caused by a variety of bacteria, some worse than others. A recent study found that microorganisms in the placentas of preterm infants were distinctive, due to maternal infections that had been detected and treated in early pregnancy.

Prevent UTIs With Good Self-Care

You can reduce your chances of getting an infection while you’re pregnant with just a few simple actions. It’s not all that difficult, and it could mean the world to your baby.

  • Don’t hold your pee. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Really.
  • Avoid over-the-counter medicines that dry up secretions, such as acid reducers, allergy, or sleep aids.
  • Drink plenty of water. Restricting fluids to avoid inconvenient bathroom breaks or stress incontinence (leaking when you jump, laugh, cough or sneeze) is a strategy that will backfire on you.
  • Urinate after sex. Every time.
  • Don’t straddle the toilet. No matter what your mom taught you about using public restrooms, sit all the way down, in order to completely empty your bladder.
  • Don’t practice Kegel exercises on the toilet once you have learned how to contract your pelvic floor. Avoid urinary retention: relax during urination.
  • You can find a high potency, multi-organism probiotic supplement in the refrigerated section of your health food store. These friendly microbes compete with yeast and bacteria in your bowel for space and nutrients. This means less contaminants are waiting to invade your body. Probiotics don’t just help your stomach and remedy constipation, they are thought to have beneficial effects for the immune system, possibly including your baby’s placenta. To get more in your diet, consume foods like kefir and cultured vegetables, which are easy to make at home.

If You Have A UTI, You Need to do More Than Just Take Pills

Your bladder infection stands a good chance of coming back after treatment if you take prescribed antibiotics, but there are a few other steps you can take to help your body recover.

  • Drink at least three quarts of water daily.
  • Don’t take over-the-counter remedies for pain. They may contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines that are not safe for your unborn baby. Try using a sitz bath to lessen discomfort.
  • Drink 100% pure cranberry juice (sold in health food stores) to slow bacterial growth, or take cranberry capsules. Popular brands are too weak, and some products contain high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.
  • Blueberry may have effects similar to cranberry, the two fruits are related.
  • Bromelain, traditionally a digestive enzyme, may prevent UTI recurrence; it is derived from pineapple.
  • Eat parsley, a natural antibiotic for your urinary tract (Tabouli, anyone?).
  • Stinging nettles is a nutritious, mineral rich herb tea that may support kidney function. It is a traditional pregnancy tonic.
  • Taking extra vitamin C with bioflavanoids may prevent bacteria from sticking around. A caution to women with diabetes, however, vitamin c may artificially raise blood sugar readings.
  • Rest is essential for warding off all types of infections.

Pregnancy and UTI

Pregnant women are at risk for bladder infections. Symptoms can make you feel miserable, and some evidence points to long-lasting effects when they occur in early pregnancy. Taking care of your urinary health is the best way to protect yourself and your baby.

Resources:

Aagaard, Kjersti. The Placenta Harbors a Unique Microbiome. Science Translational Medicine. Accessed on July 07, 2014

© Copyright 2014 Mary Earhart: Pregnancy, Childbirth, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Pregnancy
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