The presence of a small amount of protein in urine is normal. In fact, a small amount of protein can be found in the urine after a strenuous workout session. A temporary rise in the level of protein can also be caused by factors, like stress, exposure to heat or cold, dehydration, and fever. However, the presence of a high level of protein in urine can be an early sign of certain medical conditions. The medical term for a high level of protein in urine is proteinuria, and many women can develop this condition during pregnancy.
Causes of Proteinuria During Pregnancy
Our kidneys are concerned with filtering blood, and removing all waste products and toxins from the body in the form of urine. There are numerous glomeruli in the kidneys that are associated with this filtering activity. The protein molecules are usually large enough to pass through these glomeruli. Therefore, urine usually does not contain a significant amount of protein.
So, the presence of a high level of protein in urine during pregnancy or otherwise, could mean that there is a problem with the kidneys and the glomeruli. Kidney diseases, such as glomerulonephritis or nephrotic syndrome could be associated with proteinuria.
In pregnant women, the presence of a significant amount of protein in urine can be associated with urinary tract infections or cystitis. Apart from these, there can be an association between high blood pressure and high levels of protein in urine, especially in the late pregnancy. In late pregnancy, proteinuria can be associated with preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is the condition, where blood pressure increases abnormally during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia can impair the normal supply of blood to the placenta, which in turn, can reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. So, preeclampsia can result in low birth weight of the baby. But if detected and treated early, women with preeclampsia can sometimes have a normal delivery.
Proteinuria Symptoms and Treatment
Usually, this condition does not produce any symptoms. It is usually detected during the routine urine tests carried out during pregnancy. If the protein content of urine is high, the pregnant woman can experience swelling in the ankles, hands, and around the eyes due to fluid retention. This condition can also cause the urine to become foamy. If preeclampsia is the cause of this condition, then one can experience symptoms, like headaches, vomiting, blurred vision, pain below the ribs, and swelling of the hands, feet, and the face.
Proteinuria can be treated only after ascertaining the underlying causes. If it is caused by an infection of the urinary tract, then antibiotics will be required for proper treatment. But if preeclampsia is the underlying cause of proteinuria, then treatment would depend on the stage of pregnancy. If the baby has developed enough, physicians may opt for early delivery to protect both the mother and the baby.
But if early delivery is not possible, then physicians can suggest appropriate measures and lifestyle changes to control the level of blood pressure. Blood pressure can be managed by cutting down the amount of salt intake, drinking more water throughout the day, and taking adequate rest. Sometimes, medications can also be required to treat preeclampsia in pregnant women.
Preeclampsia can cause certain pregnancy complications, for which it is important to detect this condition in the early stage. Proteinuria can serve as an indicator of preeclampsia. But as has been mentioned already, this condition can be asymptomatic at times. It is usually detected only during the routine urine tests. Therefore, pregnant women should undergo all the tests and examinations recommended by their physicians.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.