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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)
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 for 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 an 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 I Think I Have a Urinary Tract Infection, What Should I Do?
If you think you have a urinary tract infection, tell your health care provider. He or she will test a small sample of urine for bacteria and red and white blood cells. The urine may also be tested to see what kind of bacteria are in the urine (called a urine culture).
If your infection is causing discomfort, you will probably be treated before the urine test results come back.