Acute pyelonephritis is an infection of the kidneys that occurs in 1-2% of pregnant women. Usually, it starts as a urinary tract infection (UTI) that travels to the kidneys. The most common bacteria that causes acute pyelonephritis in pregnancy is E. coli. Symptoms of acute pyelonephritis include fever, chills, flank pain, urinary urgency and frequency, nausea, and vomiting. Pregnant women are at an increased susceptibility to acute pyelonephritis because their bodies produce higher levels of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone relaxes the muscles involved in moving urine from the kidneys to the bladder which allows for bacteria in the urine to invade the kidneys and cause the infection. Women with a personal history of UTIs, kidney stones, anemia, diabetes, obesity, sickle cell trait, or women carrying more than one baby are also at an increased risk of developing acute pyelonephritis.
If you think that you might have acute pyelonephritis during pregnancy, seek medical care. If left untreated, acute pyelonephritis can cause anemia, septic shock, preterm labor and delivery, and acute kidney failure. If you do have acute pyelonephritis you will be admitted to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. You will receive antibiotics to treat the infection and fluids if you are dehydrated.
To prevent acute pyelonephritis in pregnancy, your doctor will perform regular urine screening test as part of your prenatal care. They may also treat you with antibiotics to prevent the development of acute pyelonephritis if you have a history of recurrent UTIs. Maintaining adequate water intake during pregnancy is also very important for prevention. Finally, practicing good personal hygiene can help to prevent UTIs and acute pyelonephritis in pregnancy.
Dr. Bhatia is board-certified gynecologists trained in women’s health, gynecological diseases, gynecology surgery, metabolic treatment, and hormone replacement therapy who practices in both Central and North Central San Antonio. If you would like to schedule a well-woman exam with an Obgyn near you, contact our office today at (210) 222-2694.5