If you get urethritis during your pregnancy, or if you’re trying for a baby, it’s important to find out the underlying cause as soon as possible.
This will determine whether there’s any risk to your baby, and how you can treat your symptoms safely.
Signs of urethritis in pregnancy
Urethritis has many possible causes, which means the signs and symptoms will be different for each person.
Many women don’t get any symptoms from non-gonococcal urethritis (i.e. urethritis that hasn’t been caused by gonorrhoea), but it’s still important to be aware of the symptoms. The main symptoms you should look out for include:
- Pain or burning when weeing
- Needing to wee a lot
- Discharge from the urethra
Causes of urethritis in pregnancy
There are a number of possible causes for urethritis. Some require urgent attention, while others don’t pose a risk to your pregnancy. They include:
- Injury - this can be caused during sex.
- Irritation - Certain bathroom products, deodorants and contraceptive products can irritate your urethra.
- Wiping from back to front - This can allow bacteria from the rectum to enter the urethra.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - Gonorrhoea is responsible for around 20% of cases, and is known as gonococcal urethritis. Other STIs, such as chlamydia, can cause non-gonococcal urethritis.
Testing for urethritis
The doctor will discuss your symptoms with you, and if they feel urethritis might be the cause, you may need some tests to help with their diagnosis. These include:
- Swab sample - This is taken from inside the urethra. If discharge is one of your symptoms, you may be asked to collect a swab sample of this.
- Urine sample - You’ll be given a container to pee into, and this will be sent away for analysis.
Both of these tests are perfectly safe to take during pregnancy.
Can urethritis in pregnancy harm your baby?
If urethritis is caused by injury or irritation, it should clear up pretty quickly and won’t pose a risk to your pregnancy. However, if it’s caused by an STI, leaving urethritis untreated can be very dangerous.
Untreated STIs such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia could cause your baby to be born with pneumonia, conjunctivitis, or even blindness.
They may be born prematurely, which increases the chances of them getting an infection, having low blood sugar, breathing problems and difficulty feeding properly. They could also have a low birth weight, which makes them more likely to suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes in later life.
Miscarriage and stillbirth are also a possibility, so it’s very important to get the treatment you need straight away.
Leaving an STI untreated could also lead to a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This increases your risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the egg is fertilised outside the womb and the foetus cannot be carried full term.
Symptoms of PID include:
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
- Pain when you pee
- Bleeding after sex
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavy or painful periods
- Vaginal discharge
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s very important that you see a doctor as soon as possible, particularly if you have had unprotected sex and not been tested.
Treatment for urethritis in pregnancy
Our doctors can prescribe effective treatment for your urethritis that is safe for you and your baby. If you need antibiotics to treat an STI that’s caused your urethritis, they can choose the medicine that’s best for your situation.
You should take this medication exactly as instructed by the doctor. They will explain the dosage you should take, and how often you should take it. To make sure that the problem is completely cleared up, you should take the full course of medication you’re prescribed, even if you start to feel better.