What to do if you get a urinary tract infection (UTI) during pregnancy

When it comes to the pregnancy side effects we could do without, urinary tract infections (or UTIs) are up there with peeing all the time, swollen ankles, aching joints and a nausea-inducing heightened sense of smell.
Getting a UTI while pregnant isn’t much fun, but the good news is it can be treated. If you suspect that you have a UTI, it’s important that you speak with your doctor about it as soon as possible to avoid any complications.
In this article, we cover: 
  • What is a
  • Why are UTIs common during pregnancy? 
  • How to recognise a UTI 
  • How to treat a UTI 
  • How to prevent a UTI 

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A is an infection of your body’s urinary system. The most common type of UTI occurs in the lower urinary tract, infecting the urethra and bladder. 
If not treated, the infection can spread further up to the ureters and the kidneys, in the upper urinary tract. The symptoms of upper UTI are considerably worse and may include back pain, nausea and fever. 
Bacteria cause most UTIs, and whilst anyone can get one, they’re particularly common amongst pregnant women.

Why are UTIs common during pregnancy?

Alongside peeing more frequently and leaking urine, urinary tract infections become more common during pregnancy. Here are a couple of the reasons why :
Your hormones change the urinary tract
Your hormones cause changes in the urinary tract, which can make you more likely to get infections. These hormonal changes can also lead to vesicoureteral reflux, a condition in which your pee flows back up from your bladder to your kidneys, which can cause a UTI.
Your bladder is squeezed
Your growing uterus presses on your bladder, which can make it difficult for you to release all the urine inside – and leftover urine can be a source of infection. 

How to recognise a UTI in pregnancy

Frequent visits to the bathroom are a normal part of being pregnant, which can make detecting a UTI tricky. Here are some symptoms that may indicate an infection.
  • Contractions and/or abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Small amounts of urine each time you pee
  • Pain when urinating
  • Traces of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine, or urine that is dark, or cloudy
  • Feeling cold, not usually accompanied by fever
  • Sudden urinary
Your doctor will be able to confirm whether or not you have a UTI with a simple urine test, which will identify if there are any bacteria present. 

How to treat a UTI

If you suspect a UTI, it’s important to speak with your doctor and seek treatment straight away. That’s because if a UTI in pregnancy isn’t treated, it can get worse and spread into the upper urinary tract, which increases the risk of high blood pressure, premature birth and low birth weight. Being pregnant can also increase your risk of kidney infection.
But rest assured that with timely detection and effective treatment – which typically includes a course of antibiotics – a UTI won’t cause any harm to your baby.
After you have finished your antibiotics, your doctor will often ask you to perform a follow-up urine test, which will confirm whether or not the bacteria are still present.
You can also take comfort from the regular check-ups you have with your midwife, who will carry out regular urine tests to measure your protein levels (high levels of protein in your urine can indicate a UTI or risks to the kidneys).
To help with urine leakage, wearing pads that are breathable, quickly soak up leaks and wick away moisture can help to keep you comfortable. TENA Lights Sensitive Normal Incontinence Liners are fast-absorbing, very discreet and have 0% fragrances and dyes for gentle protection.

How to prevent a UTI

There are several measures you can take to reduce your chances of getting a UTI. Some of the following may help:
Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water helps to keep your urine healthy so that you’re less likely to get a UTI. You might be tempted to drink less in order to avoid yet another trip to the bathroom, but don’t! Cutting down on water leads to dehydration and can cause your urine to become more concentrated. This in turn can irritate the bladder, creating the urge to go to the toilet even when the bladder isn’t full.
Take showers instead of baths
While a bath may be relaxing, especially at the end of a long day, soaking in a tub might increase your risk of developing a UTI – especially if you like a lot of bubbles – because they can allow bacteria to enter your urinary tract.
Go to the toilet directly after sex
Peeing after sex can help to flush any bacteria away from the urethra. 
Take your time on the loo
Rushing through your bathroom visit can also cause issues. Leaving even a small amount of urine in the bladder increases your chances of developing a urinary tract infection, so always take the time to empty your bladder completely. A great tip is to lean forward on the toilet seat – this is the body’s most effective position when it comes to emptying the bladder fully. 
Always wipe from front to back
It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many times we can forget this simple rule: always wipe front to back. That way you’ll move bacteria from faeces away from the more sensitive vulva area, which lowers the risk of infection.  
Avoid using perfumed products on the genital area
These alter the skin pH and affect the local colonisation of microbes. All hygiene products, including shower gels, soaps, douches and wipes, contain fragrances, additives and preservatives which can damage the delicate skin in this region, so it’s best to keep things simple and only wash the area with warm water. 
If you’re using pads to manage urine leakage, it’s a good idea to opt for ones that are kinder to sensitive skin, such as TENA Lights Sensitive Normal Incontinence Liners and Pads, which contain 0% fragrances and dyes for gentle protection.
Product image of TENA Lights Sensitive Ultra Mini and Ultra Normal pads

Dealing with incontinence

Bladder weakness is a common symptom of menopause. TENA Lights Sensitive is our most caring pad yet, made with a soft top layer that’s extra gentle on delicate menopausal skin. Now with at least 50% plant-based material, and our first ever paper packaging. 

TENA is here to help you navigate your pregnancy and post-partum journey, with practical advice for pregnancy and post-partum incontinence. If you feel that you need more support, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional, like your nearest GP. We have a huge range of products designed to support you – check out the full range here or order a sample. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you can’t find the right product for you.