Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(1):157

What is a urinary tract infection?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria (germs). The most common kind of UTI is a bladder infection. Other kinds of UTIs are kidney infections and infections of the urethra. The urethra is the small tube that goes from the bladder to the outside of your body.

How do I know I have a UTI?

UTIs may cause different symptoms in different people. You may feel a burning sensation when you urinate. You may need to urinate more often, sometimes every 30 to 60 minutes. Or, you may feel like you need to go again right after you have just urinated. You may notice blood in your urine or a strong smell.

Sometimes germs grow in the urinary tract but you do not have any of these symptoms. This is called asymptomatic bacteriuria (say this: “a-simp-toe-mat-ik bac-tear-ee-you-ree-ah”). Your doctor can test to find out if you have this. Asymptomatic bacteriuria should be treated in pregnant women but does not have to be treated in most other women.

How will a UTI affect my baby?

If you have a UTI and it is not treated, it may lead to a kidney infection. Kidney infections may cause early labor. Fortunately, asymptomatic bacteriuria and bladder infections usually can be found and treated before the kidneys get infected. If your doctor treats a UTI early and properly, the UTI will not hurt your baby.

How are UTIs treated?

Your doctor will prescribe a medicine that is safe for you and the baby. You can help by drinking a lot of water to help flush the germs out of your urine.

How do I know if the medicine is not working?

If you have a fever (higher than 100.5°F), chills, pain in your lower stomach, nausea, vomiting, or pain in your sides, you should call your doctor. You should call your doctor if you have any contractions, or if, after taking medicine for three days, you still have a burning feeling when you urinate.

Can I keep this from happening again?

You can help prevent UTIs in several ways. You should take any medicines just as your doctor says to. Also, drink plenty of fluids every day (water is the best), and urinate often. Do not hold your urine for a long time.

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