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Is There a Link Between Pregnancy and Kidney Infection?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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There is a strong link between pregnancy and kidney infection: it is the most common serious complication suffered by pregnant women. Though a small percentage of women will experience pregnancy and kidney infection, all women are monitored for the bacterium that causes the infection until the birth of the child. If the bacteria are found in a urine test, most doctors require immediate medical attention in order to protect the safety of the child and mother.

Kidney infections are caused by bacteria which move from the bladder to the kidneys via the ureters — the tubes which connect the bladder to the kidneys. They increase the risk of preterm labor; a baby who has a low birth weight; and the death of the fetus, newborn, or even the mother. The link between pregnancy and kidney infection is significant because women are more susceptible to kidney infections while they are pregnant because there is a spike in levels of progesterone which lessens the muscular strength of the ureters. This causes the urine to pass more slowly through the ureter tubes, giving harmful bacteria more time to grow and increasing the possibility they will travel to the kidneys.

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A kidney infection comes from bacteria in the urinary tract. These bacteria, called asymptomatic bacteriuria, are normally not a problem, but they can cause serious issues for pregnant women. About 2–7% of women will have the bacteria in their urine. There is a 40% chance of contracting kidney disease among pregnant women who are discovered to have the bacteria. If the bacteria are found in a urine test during pregnancy, doctors often advise immediate treatment in order to increase the odds of avoiding kidney infection.

The symptoms of a kidney infection include vomiting, nausea, high fever, and pain felt primarily under the ribs in the lower back and sides. A woman may also experience pain in the abdomen and notice pus or blood in the urine. Pregnant women who have these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

Pregnant women with kidney infections are usually hospitalized as soon as possible so that they and the baby can be carefully monitored. They are given antibiotics and intravenous fluid, and measures are taken to reduce the fever that typically accompanies an infection. Depending on response to treatment, a woman can be released within a day or several days after admission to complete the remainder of her antibiotic treatment with pills. Women who experience pregnancy and kidney infection are typically required to remain under continued regular observation and on antibiotic treatment until the birth of the child.

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