Urinary tract infections (UTI), cystitis (also known as bladder infections), and kidney infections are not only uncomfortable, but can cause serious complications during pregnancy if left untreated. While the burning during urination and low to mid back pain may seem like just another discomfort during pregnancy, an untreated UTI can lead to a more serious kidney infection (called pyelonephritis) and end up with a stay in the hospital due to sepsis which would necessitate IV antibiotics to kill off the infection.
Women's anatomy generally make for an easier transition for bacteria to travel from the meatus (pee hole) up through the urethra and into the bladder. From there, if left untreated, bacteria can travel even further up through the ureters to the kidneys and wreck havoc on this important organ. The infection can then travel throughout the blood and lymph system and cause a nasty blood infection caused sepsis.
During pregnancy, women can be more susceptible to UTI's/bladder infections due relaxation of the muscles (which can affect the ureters) from pregnancy hormones such as progesterone and relaxin. Because the uterus sits on top of the bladder, pressure from an enlarging uterus can block the drainage of urine from the bladder, further complicating the problem.
Preventing a UTI...
The following is a list of steps you can take in order to help prevent a UTI or bladder infection from occurring:
- Drink six to eight glasses of purified water daily to help flush the kidneys.
- Drink unsweetened cranberry juice to help keep bacteria from sticking to the urinary system walls-Note...it will be very sour. Sweetened cranberry juice will not work at all and will actually work to feed bacteria.
- Eliminate all refined foods, along with caffeine, alcohol, and sugar as these feed bacteria.
- Do not let urine sit in the bladder for long periods of time, make certain to urinate as soon as you feel the urge to do so, and empty your bladder completely as bacteria thrive in more concentrated urine.
- Urinate both before and after intercourse, as this can lead to bladder infections.
- Wear cotton underwear and pantyhose, and avoid tight fitting pants, as bacteria breed more easily in tight, moist areas.
- Avoid douches, powders, and antiseptic creams to the genital area, as bacteria thrive when the acid/alkaline balance is changed.
- After urination, wipe front to back, as bacteria from the rectum can travel to the meatus.
- Take extra vitamin C to help fight infection; however, too much vitamin C can cause loose stools.
- During baths, place two to three drops of tea tree and lavender oil in the bath. These are anti-septic and anti-bacterial and will help prevent infections.
- Take acidophilus daily to keep up the friendly bacteria. Also make certain to include kefir, yogurt, kombucha, cultured vegetables such as saurkraut on a daily basis. This maintains the friendly flora in your body to help keep bacteria at bay.
Regardless of how well your diet is, and how many preventative measures you take, you may still develop a urinary tract infection during your pregnancy. An untreated urinary tract/bladder infection can lead to a nasty kidney infection called pyelonephritis, as well as a blood infection called sepsis. Untreated kidney infections can lead to premature labor.
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
- Pain/burning with urination
- Urgency with urination (feeling like you have to urinate all of the time; however, when you do urinate, it is a very slight amount)
- Low abdominal pain/cramping
- Blood or mucus in the urine
- Foul smelling, dark, or cloudy urine
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Fever, chills, sweats
- Pain or pressure over the lower abdomen/pelvis (over the bladder)
If the infection spreads to the kidneys (pyelonephritis), you may experience:
- Low back pain/flank pain
- Blood in urine
- Fever and/or chills
These are serious symptoms and necessitate immediate treatment from your health care provider.
If you are currently experiencing these symptoms, or have been diagnosed with a UTI/bladder infection, your health care provider/OB may prescribe antibiotics to kill off the infection. Because antibiotics kills off all of the bacteria in your body (even the good bacteria), it is important to re-populate the good bacteria after your course of antibiotics is over. This is where it is especially important to include lots of kefir, kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, and properly cultured sauerkraut in your diet. These foods help re-introduce the good bacteria into your system. A midwife I am acquainted with also recommends placing plain yogurt in the vaginal vault over night for three to five nights after a course of antibiotics to help re-populate the good bacteria.