What Are the Urologic Risks of Pregnancy?

November 10,2022 |
Pregnant woman touching her baby bump.

During pregnancy, your body releases several hormones in order to prepare for a healthy fetal development. As your baby grows, your organs shift to make room for them. This can lead to several side effects ranging from mild to severe. In most instances, pregnancy progresses, and you tend to feel a growing discomfort as you get closer to your due date. This is completely normal and is simply due to the pressure and weight of creating life. However, there are also some things that can happen that may require medical intervention. To help you stay safe and better understand signs that indicate you need medical attention, consider some of the following urological risks of pregnancy.


How Does Pregnancy Affect the Urinary Tract?

The hormones that are released during pregnancy can directly affect the overall structure and functioning of the urinary system. The subtle changes in balance can increase your risk of infections and also cause other urologic conditions. As your baby grows, pressure on the bladder increases and can lead to heightened frequency, but this will subside after delivery. Try to make sure that you empty your bladder completely each time you use the bathroom and address concerns as soon as they’re noticed. The best way to make sure you’re getting the care you need is to see your doctor regularly for prenatal care visits and schedule a trip to the urologist if you experience anything out of the ordinary.


7 Possible Urological Risks of Pregnancy

Untreated infections or urologic problems that affect other systems in your body can be dangerous to your pregnancy. In order to keep you and your baby safe and encourage a healthy development, it’s important to address any conditions as soon as possible. If you notice any signs or symptoms of the following urological risks of pregnancy, don’t hesitate to see your doctor.


  1. Urinary Tract Infections

    One of the most common urological risks of pregnancy is a urinary tract infection (UTI). This occurs when harmful bacteria enter the urethra and multiply. Pregnant women are at the highest risk of developing UTIs between the 6th and 24th week of pregnancy, due to the normal changes of the urinary tract that occur at this point of gestation.

    Some of the most characteristic signs of a UTI include pain, burning or discomfort while urinating, an increased need to urinate, a feeling of urgency, and even cramps. Your urine may appear cloudy, possess a strong odor, or have a foul smell. Some women also experience chills and pain or pressure on the bladder. Undergoing the proper treatment for a UTI is an important part of ensuring your pregnancy stays safe and your baby’s development isn’t affected. See your doctor at the first sign of a UTI to treat it swiftly and effectively.


  2. Vesicoureteral Reflux

    Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) is another possible urologic risk of pregnancy. This is a condition that occurs when the urine in your bladder goes in the wrong direction. Instead of flowing down and out of the urethra, it backtracks up the ureters and into the kidneys. This can be particularly problematic, as it can lead to further UTIs and increase the risk of developing a more severe kidney infection.

    Although VUR is usually more prevalent among children and young adults, the physical changes that occur during pregnancy can cause it to develop. Be aware of the symptoms of VUR and don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you’re experiencing any. Some of the most common symptoms include chronic UTIs, urinary incontinence, urinary retention, and bowel problems such as constipation. Your urine may also appear cloudy, have a foul odor, or contain traces of blood (hematuria). When left unchecked, these can lead to symptoms of a kidney infection such as fever, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Your doctor can help you treat VUR and manage any symptoms. 


  3. Kidney Stones

    Some people naturally experience kidney stones more often than others and when it happens, it can cause a lot of pain. Although uncomfortable, there are treatment options available to help you pass kidney stones and reduce your discomfort. Unfortunately, when you’re pregnant, this gets a little more complicated. Hormonal changes can make it harder for pregnant women to completely empty their bladder, which gives stone-forming compounds that make up kidney stones more time to accumulate. This can increase the risk of stone development.

    Treating kidney stones during pregnancy often cannot be done in the same manner as a non-pregnant individual. Certain medications and procedures may be considered too risky for the baby and therefore, many doctors may have pregnant women simply try to pass them naturally. However, you should still see your doctor if you think you may be experiencing a kidney stone, as an ultrasound can provide confirmation and rule out other complications. Doing what you can to prevent kidney stones is often the best course of action, especially during pregnancy.


  4. Frequency

    One of the most common urologic risks of pregnancy is increased frequency. As your baby grows, they put an increasing amount of pressure on your bladder and other supporting organs. This can make it difficult for your body to retain as much liquid as before. Since hydration is essential during pregnancy, the result is going to be an increased frequency. However, you can help reduce unnecessary amounts of frequency by avoiding drinks that have a diuretic effect. These include coffee and tea (which you should limit anyway).

    Other than avoiding diuretics, there’s not much you can do about frequency, but it should subside once you’ve delivered your baby. If you’re experiencing an abnormal or disruptive level of urination, talk to your doctor about possible treatments to help you manage symptoms.


  5. Urinary Incontinence

    The risk of urinary incontinence grows as you get closer to your due date. This is caused by the same factors that influence frequency. As your baby grows, the pressure that’s put on your bladder can lead to leakage and incontinence. While incontinence can occur at any time, with or without a trigger, many women who are pregnant experience it more often when they laugh, sneeze, or cough. The urologic risk of incontinence increases with age. Similarly, women who experienced overactive bladder (OAB) before pregnancy will likely experience higher degrees of incontinence throughout gestation.


  6. Incarcerated Gravid Uterus

    A lesser-known urologic risk of pregnancy is something called incarcerated gravid uterus. This refers to the uterus becoming trapped or wedged into the pelvis. This usually occurs after the first trimester and can be caused by a number of things. Women who have endometriosis, uterine malformations, or pelvic tumors are at a greater risk of incarcerated gravid uterus. This condition needs to be treated as soon as possible, as it can lead to several complications such as bleeding, pain, and the inability to void urine or feces. Depending on the severity of the case, the uterus may be manually repositioned into the correct location with the help of a Foley catheter. Women who experience this will usually need a cesarean delivery to avoid issues.


  7. Urologic Cancer

While urologic cancers are not necessarily caused by pregnancy itself, if they develop during the gestation period it can present an increased risk for both mom and baby. Some of the common types of urologic cancers that could occur during pregnancy include bladder cancer, renal cancer, and adrenal tumors. Always stay up to date with your prenatal visits to help monitor both your health and the health of your baby. If your doctor suspects any cancerous growths, the proper diagnostics will be administered. If diagnosed with cancer, you’ll work with your urologist to determine the best course of action throughout your pregnancy.


If you experience any of the above conditions, it’s important to follow your doctor’s treatment plans accordingly. They will help you determine a way to treat your underlying condition to maximize safety to your developing baby while eradicating the infection or minimizing disruptive symptoms. Avoid taking any over-the-counter remedies in an attempt to treat ailments at home and always make sure that your doctor has an updated list of your medications throughout pregnancy. If, at any time during your treatment you begin to experience alarming symptoms, seek medical care immediately.

Seeing your urologist during pregnancy will help you address potential urologic risks throughout pregnancy and ensure you receive the proper treatment plan if something does occur. To help support your lifestyle, Byram Healthcare offers a wide range of urologic products to alleviate symptoms and take control of your life. Browse our urology products today and enjoy fast, discreet delivery directly to your doorstep.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.