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URINARY TRACT INFECTION IN PREGNANCY

WHAT IS A URINARY TRACT INFECTION? WHAT CAUSES IT?

It is an infection in the kidneys, bladder, or urethra (the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to the outside) and is caused by bacteria (germs).

HOW DOES IT OCCUR?

The bacteria that usually cause the infection are often found on the skin around your vagina. These germs can enter the urethra and travel up to the kidneys. In females, this can happen during sexual intercourse. The bacteria may be forced into the opening where they travel up the short urethra to cause an infection.

Urine, that sits in the bladder a long time, may grow enough bacteria to cause an infection. Anything that prevents the urine from easily flowing out can also cause an infection. Some of the normal body changes of pregnancy seem to make it easier to get these infections. Urinary tract infections are found more often in persons who are pregnant, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or gout. But urinary infections do not necessarily develop in all persons with those conditions.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

The most frequently experienced symptoms are:

Pregnant women may have bacteria in their urine and feel perfectly well. Some people have back discomfort, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and weakness. This can be a signal that the bacteria has moved up to the kidneys. If you get any of these symptoms, you need to call your doctor or other health care provider immediately

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

Usually all that is needed is a sample of urine to examine under the microscope and to grow a culture from. In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to have x-rays done or an examination of the bladder.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

It is necessary to kill the bacteria that caused the infection with antibiotics. It is very important that you take all the pills in the prescription. If you stop the antibiotic early when you start feeling better, a second infection can occur which may be harder to treat.

If the kidneys have been infected, you may need to be treated in the hospital with medicines given through an IV directly into your blood.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT WILL HELP AND WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT IT?

Drinking a lot of liquids and urinating often will help "wash out" the urinary tract. Cranberry juice is an excellent drink which helps make the urine better able to fight off infection. Include several glasses of this in your daily diet.

The things that may help prevent future infections are:

WHEN DO I NEED TO RETURN TO THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE?

You should be feeling better within 3 days after you begin taking the medication. If you do not feel better by this time or if you get worse or develop any new symptoms, you should call your doctor as soon as possible.

Soon after taking all the medicines, another urine test will need to be done. In addition, you will need to have repeat tests done regularly throughout your pregnancy to make sure that your urine is not infected again. If it is infected again, you may need to take medicine each day until you deliver the baby. Also if your kidneys were infected you will probably also be given medicine to take each day.

HOW MAY URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS AFFECT MY PREGNANCY?

Compared to non-pregnant women, pregnant women with bacteria in their bladder have a much higher chance of having the germs spread up to their kidneys and make them very sick. Some experts think that pregnant women with these infections may have a slightly higher chance of having an early (premature) baby or a baby weighing less than normal. To make sure your pregnancy goes well, it is important for you to take the medicines given to you and to keep your appointments so your doctor can recheck your urine. With good care, you and your baby should do well.

The medicines prescribed for the infection are generally safe in pregnancy.

WILL I NEED TO HAVE ANY SPECIAL TESTS AFTER I HAVE THE BABY?

You will need to have your urine checked for bacteria when you return for your regular check-up. If the bacteria is still there, your doctor may recommend a special kidney x-ray called an IVP to look for an abnormality of the kidneys.

REMEMBER that with good care you and your doctor can greatly improve your chances of having a healthy baby. Keep all your appointments and follow instructions carefully.

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