The symptoms of a kidney infection can be mistaken for the normal discomforts that women experience during pregnancy. Find out the factors that can raise the risk of this infection during pregnancy, as well as the symptoms and treatment of this condition.
An infection of the kidney, also known as pyelonephritis, is a type of urinary tract infection. The kidneys, ureters, urethra, and the urinary bladder constitute the urinary system, and an infection of any of these organs falls under the category of urinary tract infections. An infection of the kidney can affect both adults and children, but it has been observed that women are at an increased risk of developing this condition during pregnancy due to certain factors. A kidney infection is a medical emergency, as it can lead to certain serious complications if not treated immediately.
Causes of Kidney Infections
An infection usually begins in the urinary bladder, from where it can spread to the kidneys. The infection-causing bacteria first enter the urethra, multiply there, and then gradually make their way upwards to other parts of the urinary tract, before finally reaching the kidneys. Factors that can impede the normal flow of urine, or the complete emptying of the bladder can cause this infection.
The formation of stones in the kidney, an obstruction in the urinary tract, and a structural defect in the urinary system, can increase the risk of kidney infections. However, pregnant women are more susceptible to this condition due to certain other factors. The hormonal and physical changes that accompany pregnancy can sometimes make a woman more vulnerable to an infection of the urinary tract. During pregnancy, the level of the hormone progesterone increases in the body, which in turn can decrease the muscle tone of the ureters, and cause them to dilate. This can impede the flow of urine.
Again, the growing size of the uterus can compress the ureters, further slowing down the flow of urine. During pregnancy, a woman can also fail to empty her bladder completely, as the bladder can lose muscle tone during this period. Sometimes a small amount of urine from the bladder can flow back to the ureters. All these factors can make it increasingly difficult for the urine to pass through the urinary tract quickly. This can create a favorable environment for the proliferation of bacteria, and cause an infection, which can eventually spread to the kidneys.
Symptoms of Kidney Infection During Pregnancy
Sometimes, it can be a bit difficult to identify the symptoms of a kidney infection, as some of these symptoms can resemble the normal discomforts associated with pregnancy.
Frequent Urge to Urinate and Painful Urination
An infection of the kidney or other parts of the urinary system can cause a frequent urge to urinate. However, an urge to urinate frequently can be quite normal during pregnancy, as the growing uterus can put more pressure on the bladder. However, an infection of the kidney often causes pain or discomfort while urinating, along with increasing the frequency of urination.
Cloudy or Murky Urine
Along with increasing the frequency and urgency to urinate, an infection of the kidney can cause the discharge of abnormal urine. The urine may look a bit cloudy or it can smell stronger than usual. Sometimes, blood can also be present in the urine. The presence of blood in urine is known as hematuria.
Back pain is a very common condition associated with pregnancy. However, an infection of the kidney can also cause back pain, and this pain can be quite severe at times. The pain associated with an infection of the kidney is usually felt in the lower back region, and in the lower abdomen. Sometimes, the pain or the pressure can be felt in the bladder area as well, due to a bladder infection. The pain caused by a kidney infection is often described as a stabbing pain that usually lasts for a short time.
Some other common symptoms that can be associated with kidney or urinary tract infections are, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. But nausea and vomiting can be some of the common discomforts that a woman can experience during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. But if nausea and vomiting are accompanied by the aforementioned symptoms like painful urination, then it may indicate an infection of the kidney, or any other part of the urinary tract.
Treating Kidney Infection During Pregnancy
An infection of the kidney is usually treated with antibiotics. In severe cases, the affected woman may need to be hospitalized, and given intravenous fluid and antibiotics. The length of hospitalization would depend on the severity of the infection. So, the treatment of this infection basically depends on its severity, which can be determined only after evaluating the condition properly.
If not treated promptly, such an infection can damage the kidney. Moreover, pregnant women who develop kidney infections can have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight. So, it is important to identify the symptoms of this condition, and get it immediately evaluated with the help of a physician. Prompt treatment can help avoid the complications associated with urinary tract infections.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.