Urine is a significant indicator that physicians use to monitor our health and wellbeing. Our urine can say a lot about what’s happening within our body and it is pretty understandable why many of us worry when we notice something unusual in our urine.
But if you’re pregnant, and your urine appears cloudy? Is cloudy urine a sign of pregnancy or an indicator a bigger problem to be addressed? Here’s what experts want you to know and do about cloudy urine and pregnancy.
Is it normal to have cloudy urine during pregnancy?
Urine is a sterile liquid that the kidneys have filtered from the blood and excreted out of the body in the process called urination.
Fresh urine is normally yellow-amber in color, with clear or slightly cloudy turbidity . Turbidity refers to the clearness of the urine sample and maybe gauged as clear, slightly cloudy, cloudy, opaque or flocculent. The cloudier it gets, the more particles are suspended in the urine.
Because a pregnant woman’s body undergoes drastic chemical and physical change, other factors may also affect the turbidity of urine during pregnancy. Some possible causes of cloudy urine during pregnancy include:
- Foods and Vitamins
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Yeast infections
- Kidney Stones
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
In some cases of cloudy urine, pregnancy might be partly responsible for the excess turbidity. However, since you are more at risk of getting infections and complications while pregnant, a cloudy pee during pregnancy may also signify a need for a more thorough examination from your OB-GYN.
Let’s go into each potential cause in more detail, what you can do to about them, and when you should consider medical assistance for your condition.
What Causes Cloudy Urine During Pregnancy?
While pregnant, it is common to see some of your typical urine characteristics change due to the hormonal shifts that occur inside your body. One particular hormone that will play a major role in the early part of pregnancy is the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is released by the developing placenta inside the womb.
By composition, hCG is a glycoprotein that contains the highest proportion of sugars. Since urine turbidity is affected by the number of suspended particles in its surface, then it may be worth considering that the high levels of hCG in the urine may possibly make it appear cloudy during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can be detected in the urine for around 12-14 days after pregnancy took place, and it reaches its peak at around the 8th to 11th week after conception. This is also the reason why it is the hormone that is used to detect early pregnancy in the lab or in your home pregnancy test kits.
So wait, is cloudy pee a sign of pregnancy?
It is quite common that after seeing cloudy urine, early pregnancy may be suspected by some women.
But let’s make it clear. While the presence of hCG may make the urine appear cloudy, there might be other reasons why your urine looks that way. So a much better way to confirm pregnancy is getting a test from the lab. Home pregnancy tests can’t confirm pregnancy either because the test strips can give you a false positive result at times. That being said, they are still a good first step.
Even if the cloudiness of urine isn’t a reliable indicator of pregnancy, the sudden rise of hCG is a major contributor for many of the other early signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness and frequent urination.
Dehydration is the state wherein your body isn’t being supplied with enough water to adequately take care of its needs. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of dehydration since they will need more fluids to support pregnancy. Additionally, some pregnant women may release more fluids out of their body due to increased urination or more intense vomiting.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
- feeling thirsty
- dryness in the mouth, lips and eyes
- peeing less (both in quantity and frequency)
- passing out a dark, more concentrated urine
Since dehydration will make your urine scanty and concentrated, it may also, at times, appear cloudier than your usual urine. Dehydration can pose a serious risk for you and your baby. So if you’re feeling any of the above-mentioned symptoms together with a dark cloudy urine during pregnancy, it may indicate a need to increase your water intake.
Foods and Vitamins
While pregnancy cravings make you eat more of certain foods, this might also be the culprit behind the changes in your urine. The consumption of foods that contain high amounts of phosphorus, purine, sugar, salt and caffeine can make the urine appear cloudy.
The excess minerals and waste products that the body don’t need are filtered by the kidneys and goes out through the urine. Salty foods and caffeine can contribute to dehydration, making the urine more concentrated than usual.
Try to recall if you recently consumed some of these foods before noticing the change in your urine:
- Milk and dairy products
- Cured and processed meat
- Soda and other sugary drinks
- Coffee and tea
Another thing to consider is the prenatal vitamins that you are taking. Some vitamins can alter the color and concentration of the urine, making it appear cloudy.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
A strong-smelling, blood-tinged or cloudy urine can be a sign of urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs begin when bacteria enter the lower urinary tract through the opening where urine flows (medically termed as urethra). These bacteria can then ascend and infect the urinary bladder, ureters, and, in worst-case scenarios, even the kidneys.
Pregnancy hormones, particularly the progesterone, may slow down the movement of the urinary tract. Additionally, an enlarged uterus compresses the urinary bladder, which may result in the retention of some urine even after urination. All these circumstances promote bacterial invasion and growth in the urinary tract, making pregnant women more prone to developing UTIs.
Though common among pregnant women, UTI during pregnancy pose a greater risk of developing kidney infections, along with other pregnancy related-complications like preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight infants. UTIs during pregnancy must be promptly diagnosed and treated with antibiotics.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that is primarily characterized by increased blood pressure and presence of protein in the urine (proteinuria). Preeclampsia usually emerge after the 20th week of pregnancy and more prevalent when pregnancy is near term.
While the presence of protein can contribute to the appearance of cloudy pee, pregnant women should also be aware of the other symptoms that may be associated with preeclampsia. The signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- A headache that does not go away
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in vision (Blurred or seeing spots)
- Swelling of the face or hands
- Nausea and vomiting in the second half of pregnancy
- Sudden weight gain
- Pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder (sometimes realized as rib pain)
Pregnant women having any of these warning signs will need prompt medical evaluation and monitoring.
Vaginal yeast infection
Due to the changes in their hormonal levels and vaginal secretions, pregnant women have a higher risk of developing a yeast infection called vulvovaginal candidiasis. Candida species are yeast cells that are normally present in the genital area and other parts of the body. However, once these yeast cells overgrow, it would result in an infection.
Candidiasis signs and symptoms include:
- vaginal itching
- vaginal burning
- pain during urination
- pain during sexual intercourse
- swelling and redness in the vagina
- thick, white vaginal discharge
The thick vaginal discharge may also find its way to your urine, so if a cloudy pee while pregnant is accompanied by the other symptoms mentioned above, then you might need to be tested for a vaginal yeast infection.
A recent study suggests that pregnancy increases the probability of developing kidney stones for the first time. Kidney stone formation is most likely to happen during the second and third trimesters, but the risk is highest as you go closer to the delivery of your baby. It is thought that pregnant women tend to drink less fluids during this time because the growing uterus compresses the bladder and causes more bathroom visits.
Kidney stones result from the build-up of certain minerals in the kidneys. Small kidney stones can pass through the urine and can make it appear cloudy, while larger stones may need treatment. Without treatment, kidney stones may result in premature labor or cause troubles during a normal labor.
Other warning signs and symptoms you must watch out for include:
- pain in the upper back, abdomen, or sides that usually spreads to the groin and lower abdomen
- blood in the urine
- urgency to urinate
- more frequent urination
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
Some sexually transmitted infections can manifest unusual vaginal discharge that can make your urine appear cloudy. For instance, gonorrhea and chlamydia may be suspected if you continuously have yellow cloudy urine during pregnancy because these STIs produce an abnormal, yellowish discharge from the genitals.
Untreated STIs can cause pregnancy complications and long-term health problems, so you need to be mindful of the additional signs and symptoms of STIs such as:
- Unusual or strong odor from the genitals
- Painful or frequent urination
- Pain when having sexual intercourse
- Bleeding, discharge or pain in the rectal area
- Vaginal bleeding
- Sores or rashes in the genital area
What should I do about cloudy urine during pregnancy?
Cloudy urine while pregnant might be due to a variety of causes. As mentioned, some of these causes like hormones, diet, vitamins and dehydration are less threatening and can easily be relieved at home. If there no other symptoms and they think that these might be the underlying cause of cloudy pee, pregnant women may wish to begin the following:
Increase water intake
For pregnant women, it is recommended to drink 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water every day. You may also want to take in more fluids if you are sweating too much after exercise or during hot weather. Aside from keeping you hydrated, drinking more water can help flush out the unwanted particles in your urine, leading to a much clearer urine.
Limit foods that contribute to cloudy urine
While many of these foods may be pretty harmless, you may want to limit them for a while so that you’ll have an idea of where your cloudy pee might be coming from. If your diet is the cause, eliminating these foods can usually make your urine appear clearer in the following days.
Note down the changes in your urine
Tracking down your symptoms and observations will be useful in monitoring the cloudiness of your urine. You can also show these notes to your OB-GYN in your next prenatal check-up.
Call or schedule a visit to your OB-GYN
If your cloudy urine seems to gets worse or if you notice any of the other signs and symptoms of the medical conditions mentioned above, it would be best to have yourself checked by a medical professional. Some of these conditions, like preeclampsia, will need urgent medical care.
How is the cause of cloudy urine diagnosed?
Your OB-GYN will most likely do an interview, physical exam and run tests to identify the cause of your cloudy urine. In most cases, a urinalysis will be advised to help give you doctor a clearer picture of your condition. Urinalysis is a routine test for pregnancy, but if you’re showing unusual signs and symptoms then your urine may be checked more often.
Urinalysis will reveal the complete physical, chemical and microscopic characteristics of your urine. This test can identify the presence of any abnormal cells or microorganisms in the urine.
The most important factors in taking a urinalysis is the freshness of the urine and the technique of taking the sample.
In collecting your sample specimen, you will be instructed to do a midstream, clean catch technique. This technique will make sure that your sample will not be contaminated by dirt and other microorganisms that are present in your genital area.
How To Do the Midstream Clean Catch Technique:
- First, spread and clean the labia (the lips of the female genital) using the wipes that will be given by the provider.
- Next, pee a small amount of urine on the toilet.
- Hold your urine for a moment then position the opened specimen cup just under your urethra.
- Catch or collect the midstream urine.
- You can then finish urinating on the toilet.
- Cover the specimen cup and label if necessary.
Aside from collecting a clean sample, the next important thing is to make sure you submit the specimen to the lab immediately. It is recommended to test a fresh urine sample for the most accurate results.
Will I need treatment if my urine is cloudy?
The need for treatment as well as the options you have will depend on the cause of your cloudy urine. Depending on your doctor’s findings, you may be prescribed medication to help resolve the problem. For example, these may include antibiotics for UTI and antifungals for a yeast infection.
Now, if you’re concerned about taking these medications while pregnant, understand that doctors would not prescribe medicine that is unsafe for pregnant women to take. Some antibiotics are safe for pregnancy and your OB-GYN will keep a keen eye on your condition over the course of treatment.
For preeclampsia, your treatment may revolve around relieving the symptoms – like giving medications to control high blood pressure and reduce the swelling. Since this is a more serious condition, you’ll expect closer monitoring if you’re suspected to have preeclampsia. This would mean more frequent laboratory tests and prenatal visits as well.
Cloudy urine during pregnancy is quite common and partly caused by the changes that are naturally occurring for pregnant women. However, since cloudy urine can also be caused by certain medical conditions, verbalizing your concerns to your OB-GYN will help you feel reassured that your pregnancy is safe. After all, you’ll be doing this not only for yourself but also for the wellbeing of the baby within you as well. Have a safe pregnancy ahead!