It’s no surprise the body goes through many changes during pregnancy. The hormonal and physical changes of pregnancy can make you more susceptible to a urinary tract infection or UTI. And even though it’s common to get a UTI while pregnant, it’s also very treatable.
A UTI is a urinary tract infection, also known as a bladder infection. They occur when harmful bacteria get into the urinary tract or bladder. UTIs while pregnant are common and may cause many uncomfortable symptoms.1
Symptoms may include the following:1
- Burning while urinating
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- Blood in the urine
- Foul-smelling urine that looks cloudy
- Pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen
- Pain or tenderness in the lower back if the infection has spread to the kidneys
- Fever or chills
Some people may have what is known as an asymptomatic UTI or asymptomatic bacteriuria, where harmful bacteria reside in the urinary tract, but no symptoms exist. If left untreated, this may progress to a symptomatic UTI or a more serious kidney infection called pyelonephritis.3
If you’ve ever experienced a UTI, you know that they are uncomfortable. You may wonder if you can safely take over-the-counter medications, such as AZO, for a UTI while pregnant.
While medications can alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of a UTI while pregnant, it is not a treatment for UTI. It is unclear if AZO is safe to take during pregnancy, as there haven’t been enough studies. So, it’s essential to discuss with your healthcare provider if taking AZO is a viable option for you.7
Is a UTI While Pregnant Common?
Unfortunately, UTIs are common while pregnant, as if you weren’t already going through enough at this time! The hormone increase during pregnancy dilates the ureters, and your growing uterus adds pressure onto the bladder. These both cause urine to sit in the bladder longer than usual, putting you at risk for an infection.4
Your provider will routinely test your urine to screen for infection as part of your prenatal care. However, if you feel you have symptoms of a UTI, don’t delay and wait to be tested. Let your provider know right away.2
UTI While Pregnant: Treatment
Your provider will diagnose your UTI with a urine sample. The earlier they test you, the sooner you can receive treatment. This may prevent the spread of the infection to your kidneys.2
UTI treatments include antibiotics and are safe to take while pregnant. Most UTIs can be treated at home. UTI treatment typically involves a short course of oral antibiotics at home for up to seven days.5
If your infection has spread and has now become a kidney infection (pyelonephritis), this may require intravenous antibiotics at a hospital.2 Your provider will choose the right antibiotic based on what kind of bacteria is present in your urine sample.3
How Long Do UTIs Last?
UTIs rarely go away on their own; unfortunately, there are no natural ways to treat a UTI.6 Luckily, UTIs are easily treated with the correct antibiotic. Once you’ve seen your provider and begun treatment, you can expect to have symptoms for 24-48 hours. But you’ll want to finish your course of antibiotic treatment to prevent reinfection. This is five to seven days typically.5
Treating the infection may take longer if the infection has spread to the kidneys. This type of infection typically requires intravenous antibiotics and close monitoring in the hospital for 24-48 hours. After your infection is under control, you will be discharged with oral antibiotics for up to 14 days.5
What Happens if You Don’t Treat a UTI?
UTIs are very treatable. However, they rarely resolve on their own without treatment. An untreated UTI can spread to the kidneys and other body parts, causing a more severe infection.8
If the infection has spread to the kidneys, this can lead to complications such as:2,3,5
- Sepsis (a severe infection of the blood that can spread throughout the body)
- Preterm labor
- Premature delivery
- Low birthweight of the newborn at delivery
Can a UTI Cause Miscarriage?
Having a UTI alone does not cause a miscarriage, especially if it is treated properly. However, it can increase the likelihood of other complications, possibly increasing the risk of a miscarriage. If the UTI develops into a more severe infection, it could result in further complications that might harm the expectant mother or cause premature delivery.2
How Can You Prevent a UTI While Pregnant?
You can try some things to keep a UTI at bay during your pregnancy. Remember that you may do everything right to prevent a UTI and still get one.1
Some things you can try to reduce the likelihood of getting a UTI include:6
- Stay hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water per day
- Avoid fruit juices, caffeine, alcohol, and added sugars
- Urinate frequently and thoroughly empty the bladder
- Change your underwear daily
- Take vitamin C and zinc daily
- After urinating, be sure to wipe front to back
- Avoid harsh body wash, douching, and feminine sprays
- Urinate before and after intercourse
- Drink no-sugar-added, 100% cranberry juice
It’s best to treat urinary tract infections early, especially during pregnancy. Contact your provider immediately if you suspect you have a UTI while pregnant.