You might know that urinary tract infections during pregnancy are potentially dangerous, but did you know they’re also often asymptomatic?
Usually, UTI symptoms can include:
- Frequent urination.
- Difficulty urinating.
- Burning sensation or cramps while urinating.
- Cloudy urine, or urine with an odor.
But during pregnancy, women aren’t as likely to be tipped off to a UTI by these clues.
That’s because, during pregnancy, symptoms of a UTI actually can mimic pregnancy itself: the feeling that you have to use the restroom more often, pelvic pressure and lower back pain.
What’s scary is that although often asymptomatic, UTIs during pregnancy are common.
During pregnancy, hormones cause changes in the urinary tract, which makes women more susceptible to infection.
“There is a lot of the progesterone hormone circulating,” said Dr. Susan Oakley, director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery with St. Elizabeth Physicians. “The hormone relaxes our pipes and plumbing and slows things down, which invites bacteria to come in and start swimming around. I always say it’s like mosquitos to a puddle. If you leave water sitting there for long enough, they’ll find their way to it.”
Also, because things are closer together down there during pregnancy, there’s a greater likelihood for bacteria to spread.
“It may creep some women out to know that the No. 1 bacteria in a UTI is E. coli, but it really shouldn’t,” Oakley said. “It’s just something that’s way more common during pregnancy.”
So, why are UTIs so dangerous during pregnancy?
They can cause kidney infections or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in the mother, both of which can lead to preterm labor and delivery.
If you suspect a UTI during pregnancy, seek medical advice as soon as possible at your gynecologist’s office.