It is the relaxation of muscle in the urinary tract during pregnancy that may make you more susceptible to bladder and kidney infections. UTIs need to be treated during pregnancy as they can make you feel very ill, and can possibly lead to premature labour if untreated.
Frequent urination and a burning or stinging sensation when urinating can signal cystitis, or a urinary tract infection (UTI). If the infection is in the kidneys you may feel constant backache at waist level across the middle and sides of your back. If the infection is in the kidneys there may also be blood in your urine colouring it pink, red or brown. Other symptoms include pain during sex, chills and fevers, cloudy or smelly urine and pain or tenderness around your bladder.
Often during pregnancy, however, you may not realise you have a urine infection because there are no “burning” symptoms of cystitis. This is one of the reasons why your urine should be checked for proteins at every antenatal appointment. However, you should also call or attend your carer if you have a constant need to urinate (particularly in the second trimester), a burning sensation or irritation when urinating, low abdominal pain, right or left sided back pains, or a temperature.
Infections are usually treated successfully with antibiotics. You carer will send a urine specimen to the lab, so that you are started on the most effective antibiotic. It is not uncommon to have recurrent infections in pregnancy
- Avoid caffeine as this can irritate the bladder.
- Drink lots of fluids, such as water and herbal teas, but not sweetened juices or drinks.
- Drink lots of unsweetened cranberry juice (pure juice without added sugar).
- Drinking bread soda (baking soda) mixed with water (one tsp dissolved in a cup of water) can also help ease symptoms of cystitis.
- Take a probiotic supplement. There is growing evidence that this may help with urological conditions. Ensure it is suitable for pregnant women.
- Discuss alternative solutions with your caregiver, such as taking vitamin supplements e.g. vitamin C, Beta-carotene and Zinc to help fight infection.
- Take showers, not baths.
- Ensure you practice good hygiene. Blot dry – rather than wipe - from front to back after you urinate to prevent the spreading of bacteria.
- Urinate frequently. Go as soon as you feel the urge to go.
- Avoid intercourse if you are being treated for an UTI; otherwise urinate before and after intercourse.
- Do not use strong soaps, powders or any feminine hygiene products in your genital area.
- Avoid tight underwear and tights (pantyhose) and wear cotton where possible.
“I had been experiencing twinges in my back that were unlike my usual back pain. The midwife suspected a kidney infection, but no proteins showed up in my urine sample. However, a week later they did, and after a lab test I was put on a course of antibiotics. I had noticed no other symptoms, I just felt “pregnant”. However after I took the antibiotics I felt remarkably better in myself and more energetic.”