Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) during pregnancy

9-minute read

Key facts

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common bacterial infection in pregnancy, and if you’re pregnant you have a 1 in 10 change of having one.
  • Symptoms of UTIs include stinging or pain when you pass urine (wee), a need to pass urine more often, leaking urine, or a fever.
  • If you have bacteria in the urine or a UTI during pregnancy, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat it.
  • If you have a UTI in pregnancy, your doctor will work with you to try to prevent it becoming a kidney infection.

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of theurinary system. It can occur in different parts of the urinary tract, including the bladder (cystitis) and kidneys (pyelonephritis). The bacteria usually come from the gut (digestive system) where they don’t cause problems, and move to the urinary tract.

Sometimes bacteria is found in the urinary tract, but you don’t have any symptoms of an infection. This is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria. Your doctor or midwife will test for this in your first trimester of pregnancy by asking you to provide a urine sample. If you have bacteria in your urine, even if you don’t have symptoms, your doctor will prescribe treatment, to prevent problems for you or your baby.

UTIs can affect you whether you are pregnant or not. If you’re pregnant, you have up to a 1 in 10 chance of having a UTI. It is the most common infection in pregnancy. If you have a UTI while you’re pregnant, you are also more likely to develop other, more harmful, infections.

What are the symptoms of UTIs during pregnancy?

Common symptoms of a UTI during pregnancy are similar to those that you might experience at any other time, and include:

  • pain or a burning sensation when you pass urine
  • feeling the urge to urinate more often than usual
  • urinating before you reach the toilet (‘leaking’ or incontinence)
  • feeling like your bladder is full, even after you have urinated
  • urine that looks cloudy, bloody or is very smelly
  • pain in the lower abdomen or above the pubic bone
  • fever

If the infection has moved to the kidneys, you may also have a high fever, back pain and vomiting.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What are the common causes of UTIs?

Your urinary tract is normally free of bacteria. If bacteria enter the tract and multiply, they can cause a UTI. Some reasons that increase your risk of developing an infection include:

  • being sexually active more than 3 time a week, which increases the risk of bacteria moving around the genital area and entering the urinary tract
  • having problems emptying your bladder completely
  • having diabetes, as the sugar in your urine may cause bacteria to multiply

During pregnancy, changes that occur in your body will increase your risk of getting a UTI, including changes to your urine and immune system. As your baby grows, there is also increased pressure on your bladder, which can reduce the flow of your urine and lead to an infection. The tubes that take urine from the kidney to the bladder (ureters) get wider, which makes it easier for bacteria to get to the kidneys.

What are the complications of UTIs during pregnancy?

A bladder infection is more likely to become a kidney infection if you are pregnant than if you are not pregnant. In pregnancy, kidney infections are more severe and may cause problems for both you and your baby.

Having bacteria in your urine (even if you don’t have pain or other symptoms) is associated with a condition called pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a serious medical condition in pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and can affect many body organs, including the liver, kidney and brain. If left untreated, it can lead to serious problems for you or your baby, but early treatment prevents these problems.

A kidney infection can cause problems such as severe infection (sepsis), blood pressure problems and kidney damage.

Is there a risk to my baby?

If you have bacteria in your urine, or a kidney infection while you’re pregnant, your baby is at a higher risk of an early birth or being born underweight. This risk doesn’t occur with a bladder infection, so long as it is treated.

The best way to avoid a risk to your baby is to keep all your antenatal appointments with your doctor, midwife or clinic.

How are UTIs diagnosed?

UTIs are diagnosed by taking a urine sample, which is checked in a laboratory under the microscope for bacteria. Your doctor will also ask you about your symptoms and may do a physical examination.

Everyone who is pregnant will be offered a urine test, usually at their first antenatal visit or soon after. You may need to repeat the urine test if you have had UTIs in the past, have symptoms of a UTI, have a sample with an unclear result, or if your doctor thinks you are at high risk of developing a UTI. If you have many UTIs, you may need more tests such as an ultrasound of your kidneys.

How are UTIs treated during pregnancy?

UTIs are treated with antibiotics that are safe in pregnancy. Your doctor will prescribe the right antibiotic, based on your infection and the type of bacteria found in your urine sample. If your doctor is concerned about your UTI, they may start you on one antibiotic straight away, and then change the antibiotic if the bacteria is best treated with a different antibiotic.

If you have had many infections or many samples showing bacteria in your urine, your doctor may prescribe regular antibiotics in your pregnancy to prevent more infections from developing (prophylaxis).

It is also recommended to have a repeat urine test a few weeks after you finish your antibiotic treatment to ensure that the infection has cleared.

Can I prevent UTIs?

You can lower your risk of developing a UTI during pregnancy by:

  • drinking plenty of fluids, especially water
  • going to pass urine (wee) when you get the urge, and not delaying
  • urinating immediately after sex
  • wiping from the front to the back after going to the toilet
  • showering instead of having a bath
  • avoiding douching and sprays or powders in the genital area

When should I see my doctor?

See your midwife or GP if you have any symptoms of a UTI. It’s important not to delay getting antibiotics, as infections develop quickly, and can lead to problems for you and your baby.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Resources and support

For more information on UTIs, visit the Kidney Health Australia page on UTIs.

Mothersafe has information sheets about urinary tract infection in pregnancy.

Read the Queensland Government’s guide to UTIs for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

Urinary tract infection (UTI) -

Urinary tract infection occurs when part of the urinary tract becomes infected. UTIs are usually caused by bacteria and generally clear up with a course of antibiotics.

Read more on MyDoctor website

Urinary tract infection (UTI) | SA Health

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary system. Infection may occur in the kidneys, bladder or urethra.

Read more on SA Health website

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) explained - NPS MedicineWise

Learn about the causes & treatments for urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Urinary tract infection (UTI) factsheet | SCHN Site

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common infections that happen in the urinary system. This includes the bladder, kidneys and urethra.

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Access to UTI treatment in community pharmacies | SA Health

Information for consumers on eligibility, cost and what to expect for assessment and treatment of an uncomplicated UTI at a local community pharmacy

Read more on SA Health website

Checkups, tests and scans available during your pregnancy

Antenatal care includes several checkups, tests and scans, some of which are offered to women as a normal part of antenatal care in Australia.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Thrush | SA Health

Thrush or Candidiasis is a common vaginal infection, caused by an overgrowth of yeasts and is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection

Read more on SA Health website

Backache in pregnancy

There are several things you can do to help prevent backache during your pregnancy, and to help you cope with an aching back if it does occur.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy at week 9

Your baby is now the size of a peanut. You won't be showing just yet, but you may have put on a little weight.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Prevention | incontinence | Continence Foundation of Australia

How to prevent incontinence? In many cases, incontinence can be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle habits. Here are some simple steps that can help you prevent urinary and faecal incontinence.

Read more on Continence Foundation of Australia website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.