UTIs During Pregnancy

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of some part of your body's urinary system, which includes your:

  • Kidneys
  • Ureters (tubes that carries urine from your kidneys to your bladder)
  • Bladder
  • Urethra (a short tube that carries urine from your bladder to outside your body)

Bacteria cause most UTIs. Anyone can get one, but they're most common in women, and they can be extra concerning if you're pregnant.

If you think you might have a UTI, tell your doctor. With proper care, you and your baby should be fine.

Usually, these infections in the bladder and urethra. But sometimes they can lead to kidney infections. If they do, UTIs may lead to preterm labor (giving birth too early) and low birth weight.

UTI Symptoms

If you have a UTI, you may have:

  • An urgent need to pee, or peeing more often
  • Trouble with peeing
  • A burning sensation or cramps in your lower back or lower belly
  • A burning feeling when you pee
  • Urine that looks cloudy or has an odor
  • Blood in your pee, which can turn it red, bright pink, or cola-colored

If you have a kidney infection, you may have:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upper back pain, often on just one side

If you have symptoms of a kidney infection, see your doctor right away. Without treatment, the infection can spread into your bloodstream and cause life-threatening conditions.

Why Are UTIs More Common During Pregnancy?

Hormones are one reason. In pregnancy, they cause changes in the urinary tract, and that makes women more likely to get infections. Changes in hormones can also lead to vesicoureteral reflux, a condition in which your pee flows back up from your bladder to your kidneys. This can cause UTIs.

When you’re pregnant, your pee has more sugar, protein, and hormones in it. These changes also put you at higher risk for a UTI.

Because you’re pregnant, your growing uterus presses on your bladder. That makes it hard for you to let out all the urine in your bladder. Leftover urine can be a source of infection.

Other causes of UTIs include:

Continued

Escherichia coli and other bacteria from your poop. E. Coli is the most common cause of UTIs and can move from your rectum to your urethra if you don’t wipe from front to back.

Sexual activity. Fingers, your partner’s penis, or devices can move bacteria near your vagina into your urethra.

Group B streptococcus. Many women have this bacteria in their colon and vagina. It can cause UTIs and women can pass it to their newborns. Your doctor will test you for this bacteria around weeks 36 to 37 of pregnancy. If you’re positive for group B strep, your doctor will give you IV antibiotics during labor.

UTI Diagnosis

You’ll take a urine test. Your doctor will test it for bacteria and red and white blood cells. A urine culture may also be checked. It shows what kind of bacteria are in the urine.

UTI Treatment During Pregnancy

You’ll take antibiotics for 3 to 7 days or as your doctor recommends. If your infection makes you feel uncomfortable, your doctor will probably start your treatment before you get your urine test results.

Your symptoms should go away in 3 days. Take all of your medication on schedule anyway. Don’t stop it early, even if your symptoms fade.

Many common antibiotics -- amoxicillin, erythromycin, and penicillin, for example -- are considered safe for pregnant women. Your doctor wouldn’t prescribe others, such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, or trimethoprim (Primsol, Proloprim, Trimpex), that can affect your baby’s development.

UTI Complications During Pregnancy

Pyelonephritis is a UTI that affects the kidneys. If you’re pregnant it can cause:

  • Preterm labor
  • Severe infection
  • Adult respiratory distress syndrome
  • Anemia
  • Long-term infection

UTI Prevention

To try to avoid getting a UTI:

  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Wipe yourself from front to back when you go to the bathroom.
  • Empty your bladder shortly before and after sex.
  • If you need a lubricant when you have sex, choose a water-based one.
  • Don't douche.
  • Avoid strong feminine deodorants or soaps that cause irritation.
  • Wash your genital area with warm water before sex.
  • Wear cotton underwear.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Don’t wear pants that are too tight.
  • Pee often.
  • Avoid alcohol, citrus juices, spicy food, and caffeinated drinks, which can irritate your bladder.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on September 14, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Association of Family Physicians.

American Pregnancy Association.

American Urological Association.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Urinary Tract Infections.”

Mayo Clinic: “Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).”

Urology Care Foundation (Official Foundation of the American Urological Association): “What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Adults?”

StatPearls: “Urinary Tract Infection in Pregnancy.”

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Urinary Tract and Kidney Infections During Pregnancy.”

Cochrane Database Systematic Review: “Interventions for preventing recurrent urinary tract infection during pregnancy.”

UpToDate: “Patient education: Group B streptococcus and pregnancy (Beyond the Basics).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Urinary Tract Infections: Prevention.”

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