Burning, stinging, smelly urine? Yeah, pregnancy is all about the glamour! Unfortunately, women are more likely to get urine infections when they are pregnant. Find out more about what causes them, what you can do to prevent them and what treatments are available.
Why urine infections are common in pregnancy
During pregnancy, you have many different hormones at different levels in your body. These hormones help your body to nurture and develop your baby. They also help prepare your body for birth. One of the hormones involved is called Relaxin. This hormone is brilliant at relaxing (yes, really) the small vessels in your body. These vessels might be blood vessels or the tubes which carry your urine from your kidneys to your bladder or from your bladder to the exit! Relaxed blood vessels make it easier to send more blood flow to the baby to help them grow. Relaxed tubes for urine make it easier for bacteria to enter these tubes and cause urine infections. You can also find more information on the effects of Relaxin in my article on pelvic pain in pregnancy.
How do I know if I have a urine infection?
The symptoms of urine infections include:
pain when passing urine;
lower back pain on one or both sides of your back;
feeling generally unwell;
and needing to pass urine urgently but only passing small amounts when you do.
That last one can simply be because your baby is bouncing about on your bladder and making you think it’s full. However, if you have any of the symptoms of a urine infection, you should get a urine sample checked by your midwife or doctor. You can also have a urine infection without any symptoms, which is why your midwife checks your urine sample at every appointment just in case.
When the midwife checks your urine, she is looking for things like proteins, nitrites and leucocytes. Proteins can show up because the bacteria are made of proteins, nitrites because some bacteria produce these, and leucocytes because your body is producing them to fight off the infection.
Treatment for urine infections in pregnancy
The standard treatment for a urine infection is antibiotics. You will be asked to provide a urine sample which will be sent to the hospital laboratory. They will check which antibiotics work best to kill the bacteria. However, you can be started on antibiotics before the results come back, as there are general groups of antibiotics we can start with. The doctor will contact you within a couple of days if we need to change the antibiotics or if your sample actually showed that you have no infection.
It is important to complete the whole course of the antibiotics and to provide a sample at the end of the antibiotics to confirm that the infection has gone. Untreated urine infections can occasionally spread up into your kidneys and make you very ill, even possibly needing hospital care, so please ask for help if you think you have an infection.
Ways to prevent urine infections
So how can you reduce your risk of a urine infection, even if you do have that troublesome Relaxin hormone floating around your body?
- Good Hygiene.
- Make sure that you are keeping clean. When you go to the loo, wipe from front to back. You can even get wet wipes to use after you’ve used the toilet just to keep everything fresher.
- Change any pad or liners regularly. You do tend to have a heavier discharge during pregnancy, so you may be using liners or pads to keep your underwear clean. Just remember to keep changing these if they become wet or soiled.
- Keep drinking
- Drinking plenty of fluids is really important. It keeps you and baby hydrated, which regulates your own and the baby’s heartbeats. It also means that you are passing urine a lot. This might be inconvenient but passing lots of urine means you are flushing out any nasties before they can start an infection.
- Good sexual health
- Mother told you to wee after sex and she was right. Any sexual intercourse can introduce bacteria into the area, some of which might want to set up shop and cause you an infection. By passing urine, then perhaps using a wet wipe or two, you are going to help flush them out of the area before they do.
Other things to consider
Some women find out during their pregnancy that they have a bacteria called Group B Strep in their urine or around their vagina. If it is in the urine it should be treated as usual but this bacteria can also impact upon your labour, birth and baby. I will be writing another post on Group B Strep and will link to it as soon as I have, but in the meantime, here is the link to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists patient information on Group B Strep.