You felt like you were coming down with a bladder infection and had a dull achy feeling in that area. It turns out you are actually pregnant! First of all, congratulations, mama-to-be! This is great news!
Don’t worry—you are not alone! Many women initially feel like they have a UTI but turn out to be pregnant instead. This happens because early symptoms of pregnancy, like the frequent urge to pee or an achy feeling in the lower abdomen, are quite similar to urinary tract infections.
Here is why you mistook your pregnancy for a UTI:
- Early pregnancy can be mistaken for urinary tract infection because the two share similar symptoms.
- Early pregnancy can trigger UTIs because of changes in the urinary tract.
A sure-fire way to tell if you have a UTI or are pregnant is by using a urine culture test. If you are unsure whether you have a urinary tract infection or you are pregnant, then go ahead and take a urine test, and if you want to find out more about how UTIs and pregnancies are connected, then continue reading.
Difference Between UTI And Pregnancy Symptoms
It’s very easy to confuse pregnancy symptoms with UTIs. That’s because the frequent urge to urinate, fatigue, pelvic pressure, nausea, and stomach cramps are all symptoms of both a UTI and pregnancy. There are a few common UTI symptoms that will help you differentiate between the two:
- A sharp, burning sensation while passing urine
- Dark, foul-smelling, or cloudy urine
- Mild fever
- Sharp pain on one or both sides near the upper abdomen or the back (this could also be a sign of kidney infection)
- High fever combined with chills, nausea, and vomiting (once again, signs of acute kidney infections)
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. Prompt treatment and medications can help relieve the symptoms early and reduce other risk factors associated with UTIs and pregnancy. They will take a urine sample to confirm UTI before proceeding with the treatment.
UTI In Early Pregnancy
Urinary tract infections are not unusual during pregnancy. Statistics show that 5% of pregnant women develop UTIs at least once during the course of their pregnancy.
There are multiple reasons why your chances of getting urinary tract infections are high during pregnancy. Non-pregnant women also get UTIs, but the chances of you getting one when you are pregnant are higher. Your body is going through new changes every day, from an expanding uterus, compressing organs, rushing hormones, extra blood flow, and all the other physical changes. This makes your body more vulnerable and susceptible to bacterial infection.
Some of the most common reasons for urinary tract infections in pregnant women include:
- Physical Changes: When compared to men, women are more at risk for UTIs because we are built with a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder. When you are pregnant, other factors come into play as well. The growing uterus puts continuous pressure on your bladder, which makes it difficult for you to empty your bladder at times. Bacteria can grow as a result of the bladder not emptying completely. Also, your changing hormones make it easier for the bacteria to travel up the urinary tract and cause an infection.
- Bowel Bacteria: The most common type of harmful bacteria is E. coli, which comes from the bowel. While bacteria can enter your body from a multitude of places, your urethra is located very close to to where bowel exits, giving these bacteria an easy route up to the urethra. That’s why it is always recommended to wipe from front to back rather than back to front when you use the bathroom. This can reduce the chances of you getting an infection and keeping the bacteria away from your urethra.
- Sexual Intercourse: Sex during pregnancy is fine as long as your doctor gives you the go-ahead, but it also means that your chances of getting urinary tract infections increase. That’s because, during intercourse, there are chances that the bacteria near your privates might get pushed into the urethra. However, you can avoid this by simply urinating before and after sex, and this will help you pass the bacteria out without any infections resulting.
There are some other factors that put you at an increased risk for UTI during pregnancy and in case any of these apply to you, always inform and discuss this with your healthcare practitioner in advance.
- History of recurrent infections
- Maternal diabetes
- Sexual activity
- Prior urinary tract surgery
- Injury or damage of the bladder nerves because of either Parkinson’s disease or any physical injury
Treating UTI In Early Pregnancy
The standard way to diagnose UTI, whether in pregnant women or women who aren’t pregnant, is by administering a urine culture test. Some healthcare practitioners even recommend getting regular UTI testing done during pregnancy to be on the safe side because sometimes you can even be asymptomatic. That’s one reason why every prenatal visit has a urine test included.
For both asymptomatic and symptomatic urinary tract infections, doctors recommend a pregnancy-safe antibiotic treatment to be taken for seven to fourteen days to help get rid of all the bacteria in the body. If a UTI has been detected, consult your doctor immediately and start the treatment. Always make sure to complete the full course of antibiotics to avoid a relapse of the infection or any further complications. Usually, you start feeling better after the first few doses, but it is important to get rid of all the bacteria from the body and also drink plenty of water.
One thing to note is that even asymptomatic pregnant women should get treated and complete the course because if left untreated, it can lead to complications in the pregnancy later on. Potential complications include kidney infections, low birth weight, preterm labor, and preeclampsia.
If your doctor thinks you have a kidney infection rather than a UTI, they might suggest getting IV antibiotics in the hospital since kidney infections can be more serious.
Preventing UTIs in Pregnancy
UTIs during pregnancy are common and sometimes painful. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of you getting urinary tract infections during pregnancy:
- Pee as often as possible: Walking to the bathroom every ten minutes can be a pain, especially once you start waddling, but it is very important to not hold any urine to avoid UTIs. Whenever you feel the urge to pee, make sure you empty your bladder completely and never hold anything in. Make sure to pee before you go to bed at night. An empty bladder means no bacteria lurking around to cause an infection.
- Stay hydrated: As soon as you get pregnant, one of the things every doctor recommends is to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water throughout the day helps flush out toxins and bacteria and contributes to that pregnancy glow!
- Cotton underwear is your best friend: Cotton underwear help to keep your sensitive area dry. This is important because bacteria love moisture and thrive in it.
- Good hygiene: Make sure your privates are clean at all times. Clean it externally every day when you have a shower.
- Wipe correctly: For every bathroom visit that you make, make sure you wipe from front to back. This will prevent the bacteria from getting easy access to the urethra.
- Eat well: Every pregnant woman needs to eat a healthy diet and stay active. This will build your immune system and resistance to bacterial infections. Yogurt contains active cultures and is recommended by doctors as it is a natural probiotic and highly beneficial for gut health. This can help restore your system and fight bacteria that cause infections.
Here’s What To Expect In The Early Stages of Pregnancy
Your urine culture test results just came in and you’ve found out that you don’t have a urinary tract infection; instead, you are pregnant! It is time to celebrate!
Once the initial excitement and celebration take a backseat, it is time to prepare yourself for what is to come. You may not feel that your body is changing much during the first trimester, but there is a massive transformation going on inside. Let’s discuss what to expect in the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Nausea or vomiting: Known as morning sickness, this can hit you any time of the day. Some pregnant women only feel nauseous but don’t have vomiting while some may experience nausea along with vomiting. The nausea is caused by the sudden rising levels of hormones in the body. You can relieve nausea by keeping yourself hydrated and eating foods that are low in fat. Ginger candies or tea are known to help with morning sickness.
- Swollen breasts: Almost everything during pregnancy can be blamed on hormonal changes. The sudden hormonal changes will make your breasts tender and swollen soon after conception. Gradually, as the body adjusts to the raging hormones, your breasts will feel less tender.
- Frequent urination: This is one of the symptoms that might fool you into thinking that you have a UTI. You might find yourself rushing to the bathroom more often than you like during those initial months and even later. This is because your body processes a lot more blood when you are pregnant, and that makes your kidneys work extra hard to flush out all the excess fluid.
- Tiredness: During the first trimester, the levels of the hormone progesterone rise, and this can make you feel sleepy and fatigued. Sleep and rest as much as you can. Listen to your body and take it easy when necessary.
- Cravings: Just finished dinner but suddenly have the urge to snack on a cheeseburger? It’s normal! Changes in hormones affect your food preferences, make you suddenly crave random foods, and even make you more sensitive toward certain food or odors.
- Heartburn: That burning feeling can make you really uncomfortable. Hormones, once again, are to be blamed for heartburn because they relax the valve between the stomach and esophagus. You can reduce heartburn by eating smaller meals and avoiding fried foods.
Congratulations! You Are Pregnant!
Aren’t you relieved that it’s not a UTI? If you were trying to get pregnant, then you must be on cloud nine.
The symptoms of a UTI and the early stages of pregnancy can be very similar and that’s why the confusion is understandable. We hope that with all the information about UTIs, their symptoms, treatment, and pregnancy, you are more prepared and informed to face what lies ahead. If you need any more clarity regarding UTIs, consult your doctor.