Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common, especially in women. UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system. Since pregnant women’s immune system is weak, it is easy attacked by infections, especially in cases of poor hygiene, experts say.
Dr John Muganda, an obstetrician gynaecologist at Harmony Clinic Kigali, says that urinary tract infection in women in general is related to their anatomy.
He explains that the distance between the bladder and urinary meatus is short, compared to males, and so this means that women are more at risk of UTIs.
“As the distance is short, germs can easily go to the bladder and cause UTIs. The immune system of pregnant women is somehow weakened, compared to non-pregnant women. This again increases the risk of developing UTIs during pregnancy,” he says.
Prevention is a bit difficult, however, the strategy we use, which is effective or works properly, is to recognise UTIs early. Once it is well treated or managed in time, we can avoid complications.
According to health line, UTIs are common during pregnancy because the growing foetus puts pressure on the bladder and urinary tract; this traps bacteria or causes urine to leak.
There are also physical changes to consider. As early as six weeks gestation, almost all pregnant women experience ureteral dilation, when the urethra expands and continues to expand until delivery.
The larger urinary tract, along with increased bladder volume and decreased bladder tone, all cause the urine to become more still in the urethra. This allows bacteria to grow. A pregnant woman’s urine gets more concentrated. It also has certain types of hormones and sugar. These can encourage bacterial growth and lower the body’s ability to fight off “bad” bacteria trying to get in.
Dr Iba Mayele, a gynaecologist from Clinic Galien, Kimironko, says that UTIs are more common during pregnancy because of the change in the urinary tract where the uterus sits directly on top of the bladder, and as the uterus grows, its increased weight can block the drainage of urine from the bladder causing an infection.
Mayele adds that signs and symptoms of UTIs are pain or burning sensation (discomfort) when urinating, the need to urinate more often than usual, a feeling of urgency to urinate, blood or mucus in the urine, feeling tired, achy or unwell, foul-smelling urine, cramp or pain in the lower abdomen, pain during sexual intercourse, and change in amount of urine — either more or less.
“When bacteria spreads to the kidney you may experience back pain, chills, fever, nausea and vomiting,” he says.
Mayele urges pregnant women to seek medical assistance as soon as they notice these signs because if the UTI is not treated, it may lead to a kidney infection, cause early labour and low birth weight. However, if the UTI is treated early and properly, harm to the baby will be significantly reduced.
Mayele notes that all pregnant women should be screened for bacteria for prevention as one may do everything right and still get exposed. However, one can reduce the risk of UTIs by doing the following; drink six to eight glasses of water every day, eliminate refined food, fruit, juice, caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Develop a habit of urinating as soon as the need is felt and empty your bladder completely when you do. Urinate before and after intercourse, avoid using strong soaps, antiseptic cream, feminine hygiene sprays, underwear and pantyhose every day. For treatment, antibiotics help.