The immediate postpartum period is not without an array of bodily sensations and discomforts. The body must recover from the physiological shifts of pregnancy and birth. This healing process occurs over weeks or months, for many. To add to the disarray, many people are prone to getting a postpartum urinary tract infection, or UTI. Remember, the urethra is the tube that allows urine to leave the bladder and then the body. The urethral opening is very small, between the vagina and the clitoris on a vulva.
A postpartum UTI is a bacterial infection in the bladder, kidneys, or urethra during the days or weeks following childbirth. Due to hormonal shifts, physical displacement of the bladder, and the use of menstrual and/or incontinence pads during the immediate postpartum period, UTIs are reasonably common. Additionally, many people receive a catheter (a thin tube inserted into the urethra that allows the bladder to drain without active effort) during labor, which can irritate the urethra and introduce bacteria to the urinary tract (urethra). The last thing one wants to deal with during their postpartum period is a UTI, but if it is a part of your journey, know that it is common and treatment options work swiftly.
Common symptoms of a UTI include burning or stinging sensations when you pee, frequent urination, cloudy or blood-tinged urine, and foul-smelling pee. Pelvic discomfort and blood-tinged urine. The postpartum period can be confusing since the uterus is recovering from birth and is actively bleeding. Tracking whether the discomfort is improving or worsening over time can help one distinguish if it is a common postpartum healing symptom or abnormal pain from a UTI.
Some symptoms of a UTI can be dismissed by a provider who expects one to experience some discomfort in the pelvic region during the postpartum period. There may need to be some advocacy for yourself if you are experiencing consistent or worsening pain. You can request that a healthcare provider schedule an exam and urine culture.
Healing from a postpartum UTI can feel like an added task to an already stressful time, but try to reframe it as a self-care practice. A few treatment options can include:
- Rinsing with diluted apple cider vinegar in a peri-bottle (a squirt bottle that helps clean you off after going to the bathroom or if you are still bleeding vaginally)
- Wear breathable underwear or spend time without underwear
- Take probiotics
- Stay hydrated
- Take d-mannose
- If the infection or symptoms are severe, get a prescription for antibiotics from your doctor
Jessica Diggs, LM, CPM
Licensed Midwife, Educator, & Co-founder of Centered: A Curated Doula Community