Ever wondered why you need to have regular urine tests throughout your pregnancy? Your healthcare provider is looking for these three things. By Tammy Jacks
Although it can be annoying to have to provide a urine sample at every prenatal check-up, there’s a good reason for it. Urine tests are a vital part of your prenatal routine because your urine reveals a lot about your health and wellbeing, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Here’s what to expect at each check-up
How is a urine test performed?
They’re straightforward and not too invasive. You just need to provide a sample of urine in a clean, plastic cup when you’re at your healthcare provider’s rooms. A sample of your urine is dropped onto a chemically prepared testing strip, which will reveal certain indicators.
What are healthcare providers looking for?
“Protein should never be present in your urine at any stage throughout pregnancy,” says Johannesburg-based midwife in private practice, Cavim Knight. “Higher levels of protein could signal a problem such as a bacterial or urinary tract infection (UTI), a bladder infection or kidney infection,” she explains.
Although UTIs are quite common during pregnancy, due to hormonal and pH changes in the body, they are still something healthcare providers take quite seriously, says Cavim. This is because if left untreated, a UTI could develop into a kidney infection, which is much harder to treat and could possibly induce early labour. Therefore, it’s best to have your urine tested at each prenatal check-up and ensure you drink loads of water and cranberry juice throughout your pregnancy, she maintains.
Here are Cavim’s top tips to prevent UTIs during pregnancy:
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids, such as diluted fruit juice and herbal teas.
- Don’t use harsh, scented soaps when bathing or showering.
- Only wear soft, cotton, breathable underwear. Avoid Lycra.
Preeclampsia linked to high protein
If you have high levels of protein in your urine along with high blood pressure and other symptoms such as swelling, sudden weight gain and vision problems, this could be a sign of preeclampsia. This condition affects both you and your unborn baby – as it’s been linked to poor foetal growth and premature labour, explains Cavim. Research conducted by the Preeclampsia Foundation suggests that preeclampsia usually occurs around the 20th week of pregnancy, but if diagnosed early enough, doctors will monitor the pregnancy closely and take steps to prevent premature labour.
High levels of ketones in urine is another red flag in pregnancy. As stated by the American Pregnancy Association, “Ketones occur when your body is breaking down fats instead of carbohydrates for energy.” It can lead to dizziness and dehydration. High levels of ketones could indicate that you’re not taking in enough food or liquids, and that you need to eat more snacks and light meals regularly throughout the day, says Cavim.
The good news is, this isn’t a serious complication and relatively easy to treat. Your healthcare provider will advise how much food and liquid you need to take in to regulate the problem.
Too much sugar in the urine can be a sign of gestational diabetes (a temporary condition in which the body isn’t producing enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels adequately), which needs to be monitored carefully, says Cavim.
“There’s a misconception that only those with weight problems or those who eat too much sugar in the form of cakes and sweets are at risk of gestational diabetes, but this is not the case,” she says. This form of diabetes has a strong genetic link, so if you have a family history of the condition, or problems with a previous pregnancy, you’re more at risk, she explains. In this case, having your urine tested regularly is important, as too much sugar in it is often the first warning sign of the condition, which will need to be managed throughout your pregnancy.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .