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Women's Health

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Pregnancy and Urinary Tract Infections

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A urinary tract infection is an infection in the body's urinary system. This system includes:

  • The kidneys
  • The ureter (tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
  • The bladder
  • The urethra (a short tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body)

The infection most often occurs in the urethra and bladder. It can also travel from the bladder into the ureter and kidneys.

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What Causes Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)?

Bacteria are usually the cause of UTIs, and while they are naturally present on the skin, in the lower bowel, and in the stool, a person's urine does not normally contain bacteria.

When bacteria from one of these sources enter the urinary tract system, they multiply and cause pain and irritation.

Some of the ways bacteria enter the urinary tract include:

  • Partial blockage of a urinary passage (from the pressure of an enlarged uterus, for example)
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Catheters (tubes placed into the bladder that empty the bladder)
  • Stool that gets wiped into the vagina after a bowel movement

Do Pregnant Women Get More Urinary Tract Infections?

Anyone can get a urinary tract infection, but it is most common in women, especially if they are pregnant.

In pregnant women, hormones cause changes in the urinary tract, which predispose women to infections. In addition, a growing uterus presses on the bladder, preventing the complete emptying of urine. This stagnant urine is a likely source of infection. Untreated, these infections may lead to kidney infections. Urinary tract and kidney infections in pregnant women should be treated to prevent complications.

How Do I Know If I Have a Urinary Tract Infection?

Urinary tract infection symptoms include:

  • Feeling an urgent need to urinate or frequent urination
  • Having difficulty urinating
  • Having a burning sensation or cramps in the lower back or lower abdomen
  • Having a burning sensation during urination
  • Urine that looks cloudy or has an odor

Do Urinary Tract Infections Cause Serious Health Problems?

With proper care, urinary tract infections rarely cause serious health problems. Most infections are limited to the bladder and urethra, but sometimes they can lead to a kidney infection. If they do, UTIs may lead to preterm labor and low birth weight.

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