A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on (Carl Sanburg)
Childbirth is a life changing event for every couple. Although one may find expecting the new tiny family member fascinating and inspiring , I personally considered it somewhat tense and terrifying , mostly due to the tonnes of pregnancy precautions and widely accepted belief of inability to distinguish normal pregnancy symptoms from signs of conditions causing miscarriages, birth defects and stillbirth.
Meanwhile you can easily avoid being exposed to nasty chemicals buying overpriced fruits, veges and shampoos in organic stores , no one can guarantee that your environment or places you go are 100% microbe free. Needless to say public toilets all of a sudden become your most visited place and, yes, cleaners do not check it right before you go in.
On a daily basis ‘normal’ immune system of a healthy person can easily handle frequent trips to wash room, providing the fact you’re not a fan of adventure tours in Cambodia or volunteering in a rural Tanzania and by ‘toilet facility’ you assume a nice comfy semi-sterile room where you do not want to hold your breath like deep-sea free-diver . But if you are an extreme tourism lover, you’d probably need to read this article as well, after all lack of adequate sanitation in some third world countries indicates that you have a great chance to get some mean exotic bug , even if you do not even plan to conceive.
Thanks to western society with its modern hygienic standards that prevent spread of pathogens and disease they’re causing in healthy individuals, but remain ineffective for pregnant women which are still at high risk of getting bacterial infection.
I’d like to go into more details about Urinary Tract Infections since it is the most common type of infection women can get during gestational period.
Urinary Tract Infections, acronym UTI, is one of the major concern during pregnancy and one of the most common reason of miscarriage, foetal abnormality, severe prematurity and stillbirth.
During gestational period women are more prone to UTI, due to immune suppression and decrease in muscle tone of urinary tract. A bacterium that reside in a bladder or lower urinary tract is capable to reach up the kidneys causing very serious medical complication called pyelonephritis.
When woman is pregnant, kidneys have to work to its full potential, since they are working for two, or even three people, clearing up wastes from mother’s body. Needless to say the amount of waste usually doubled or tripled during that period. Already overloaded by extra work, kidneys can’t afford loosing even a tiny bit of its ‘productivity’ without compromising a well-being of the mother and foetus.
As it was already mentioned, the chances women to get kidney infection skyrocket at the time of pregnancy 1 2. There are number of factors influencing the susceptibility to infections during gestational period:
- Increased production of hormone progesterone affects muscle tone and slows down the drainage of urine, causing it remain stagnant in a system followed by backflow of the bladder content into the kidneys. Bacteria settled in the lower urinary tract can easily access kidneys, instead of being washed out of the system 5 6 7.
- The systemic immunity of expectant mother is not yet well researched, but most scientific studies refer to it as being ‘weakened’ or ‘compromised” even though the main goal of immune system of a mother is to protect future offspring’s 8 9 10 11 12 13 14.
Meanwhile, instead of common immune response of an organism to urinary tract infections, such as fever and burning pain, the immune response of pregnant woman is rather unique. Atypical symptoms are always the huge impediment to the identification of the disease, due to similarity to common pregnancy symptoms. Inability to detect pathogen’s invasion at an early phase often causes disease progression into advanced stage very rapidly 4.
The first symptoms to appear are severe nausea, vomiting, appetite loss and severe hypertension. Symptoms themselves require quick attention since they can lead to malnutrition, hypoglycaemia and dehydration.
As the pressure on already exhausted kidneys increases the chances of having severe birth complications become more and more possible. If not treated early, pyelonephritis often result in foetal death, pregnancy loss, perinatal death and neonatal death. Perinatal death is when baby dies at late pregnancy, when she or he is just about to be born. Neonatal death is the death of live born child within first 27 days of life. The death occurs due to serious birth complications, prematurity or renal failure caused by infection. In cases when intrauterine transmission of infection occurs the child is already born with severely impaired kidney and even if treated early will suffer from kidney malfunction throughout his/her lifetime. Profound mental and growth retardation are also among of the most frequent consequences of pyelonephritis.
My next blog will be about treatment options available overseas.