Have you been told you have protein in your urine during pregnancy?
Protein in urine is referred to as proteinuria.
A small amount of protein in urine during pregnancy can be normal.
Larger amounts of protein during early pregnancy can point to an infection of some type.
Later in pregnancy, if excess protein is found in urine, it can indicate a more serious complication is developing, such as preeclampsia.
Protein in urine during pregnancy
Read on to find out more about what protein in urine during pregnancy means and what to expect if you’ve been diagnosed with it.
Why test for protein in urine during pregnancy?
Routine prenatal urine tests are performed to screen for infection or other conditions which may cause complications for mothers and babies if left untreated.
Testing for protein in a pregnant woman’s urine (proteinuria) helps care providers to make sure kidney function is normal, as well as making sure there are no other conditions that may need further investigation.
Usually you would expect a urine test to be requested at your first prenatal appointment and then periodically at future prenatal visits.
Discuss with your doctor if you don’t wish to do the urine testing, as you may have risk factors which mean early detection of certain conditions would be beneficial.
How is urine tested for protein?
Your care provider will ask you to provide a midstream urine sample in a sterile plastic cup.
A testing stick with a specially treated chemical strip is placed in the urine. The strip will change colour depending on the presence of protein in the urine. It also shows how much protein is present, ranging from low (traces) to high (excess).
If the test detects low traces of protein, this is probably normal and nothing to be concerned about. Protein output can be affected by fluid intake and diet and may fluctuate during the day.
What causes protein in urine during pregnancy?
In most cases, low levels of protein found in urine are either normal or possibly indicate a minor infection. A higher level of protein indicates a more complex and serious problem.
Some of these possible problems include:
- Preeclampsia or HELLP Syndrome
- Kidney infection
- Urinary tract infection
- Extremely strenuous exercise
- Medical conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease diabetes, leukemia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and sickle cell anemia.
What happens if protein is detected?
If you test positive to protein in your urine during pregnancy, your care provider will take into account the amount of protein indicated and your health history, as well as any other symptoms you may be experiencing.
This will help determine what the course of action should be. Further laboratory testing may be needed, to see if there is infection present.
Your care provider will check to see if you don’t have any of the following symptoms of preeclampsia, which is more likely to occur in the third trimester:
- High blood pressure
- Sudden swelling of hands, feet and face
- Blurred vision or flashing lights
- Nausea and vomiting.
If your care provider is satisfied the protein doesn’t indicate any serious issues, you will have another test done at your next appointment, with advice to keep an eye on any symptoms developing.
However, if you have any other signs which indicate a more serious complication developing, you may need to be admitted to hospital for further testing and monitoring.
It’s important to know what the symptoms of preeclampsia are so you can seek immediate assistance.
Can I avoid protein in my urine during pregnancy?
Staying in good health is essential during pregnancy, to provide the best foundations for your baby.
Avoiding infections such as UTIs can be a challenge during pregnancy, as hormones encourage the muscles in your urinary tract relax.
Practice good hygiene by wiping front to back after you urinate, and make sure your gut health is a priority. Especially during pregnancy, many women let their diets go and eat for two.
It is especially important to avoid inflammatory, insulin spiking foods like grains and sugars. Opt for protein (which will help to keep you full as well as helping to stabilise blood sugar levels), fresh vegetables and greens, good fats, nuts and seeds.
Hydration is important, not only to avoid dehydration, but it encourages more frequent urination, flushing out the urinary tract. It will also give you more energy, concentration and focus when you’re adequately hydrated. Stay away from highly processed foods and caffeine.
Women’s health and reproductive specialist, Doctor Andrew Orr, has written a fantastic article on how to help prevent thrush and UTIs, which is a must read for all women.
It’s difficult to know which women will develop preeclampsia, but if you have a family history or are at risk, your care provider will discuss the warning signs and how a diagnosis will impact on your pregnancy and birth.
Your care provider should know about any medications you are taking and if you have any preexisting health conditions. This will ensure you have the safest and healthiest pregnancy possible.
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