What is cystitis?
Cystitis is an infection in the bladder that causes irritation when urinating, and almost every woman in the UK will suffer from it at some point. “It can occur in men, but is much more prevalent in women, particularly when pregnant,” says Dr Tony Steele, medical director of Doctor Fox. “It doesn’t affect the baby, but can be troublesome for you if not treated.”
What causes it?
“Cystitis is linked to numerous causes, such as pregnancy hormones affecting the vaginal tissue, to baby putting added pressure on the bladder, but no one knows exactly why it happens,” explains Tony.
Although there’s been extensive research into the subject, it’s still not fully understood. “The bacteria that causes the infection are the usual ones found on the skin and in the vagina, but why they multiply and cause an active infection in the urine is a mystery,” says Tony.
What are the symptoms?
“Common signs of cystitis are passing dark and cloudy urine, the need to wee more frequently, and a burning sensation when you go,” explains Tony. “Your urine can even become offensive in smell.”
However, some women have mild symptoms and are unaware of the infection. But don’t fear, your GP will check for cystitis throughout your pregnancy via urine samples.
How can it be treated?
Cystitis can be treated with antibiotics, but your doctor needs to be aware that you’re expecting. “Doctors have to know you’re pregnant so they can prescribe pregnancy-safe antibiotics to battle the infection,” explains Tony. But there are other ways you can treat it. “Drinking lots of fluids will help flush the infection out of your system, especially unsweeted drinks like cranberry juice.”
How can I prevent it?
Most women who get cystitis are prone to get it again, with 1 in 5 suffering recurring attacks. But there are ways to prevent it. “Wearing natural fibres, like cotton rather than synthetics, next to the skin can reduce the frequency of infections,” says Tony. “And passing urine before and after intercourse has been shown to help those who tend to suffer with the infection after sex.”
Keep cystitis at bay by:
· Keeping your vagina and bottom clean.
· Avoid holding urine – if you need to go then go!
· Wear loose fitting underwear.
· Drink plenty of water each day.
· Never have sex on a full bladder.
What if symptoms persist?
“If you’re suffering with cystitis continually then head to your GP as the chances of complications from urine infections are higher in pregnant women,” says Tony.
Why not try…
“Cutting out sweet and spicy food worked a treat in helping to get rid of my cystitis as you wouldn’t believe how much these things can contribute to the irritation. And when I suffered with the burning sensation when urinating, I only used unbelached, white toilet rolls to clean myself.”
Bec Reynolds, 24, from Tyldesley in Manchester, 6 months pregnant to twin girls.