You are currently viewing Protein in urine during pregnancy: Is it Preeclampsia and Should You Be Worried?

You may be wondering why you’re asked to give pee samples at each of your appointment throughout your pregnancy. The truth is that your urine plays an important role id determining your overall health. A sample can be quite useful in detecting an infection, diabetes or can simply give the information whether you’re hydrated or dehydrated.

Presence of protein in urine could have a wide range of causes, it could be preeclampsia, stress or just fever. It is better that preeclampsia is detected early as it can pose some serious health risks to both the mother and the baby. The article would explain different causes of why protein may be present in urine during pregnancy, what are the possible risk factors, and how can protein in urine be treated or prevented.

Why protein may be present in urine during pregnancy?

Our kidneys work hard, on a normal routine as well as during pregnancy. The waste in our body needs to be filtered all while keeping the essentials maintained such as protein in order to help the body thrive. After the filtration process, all the filtered waste is excreted by the urine. If protein is found in the urine, it indicates that something may be wrong with the kidney’s functioning. In case you’re not pregnant, some causes of presence of protein in urine may be as follows:

  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Exposure to extreme temperatures
  • Physical or emotional stress (physical stress in reference to exercise)

Although the mentioned causes only cause protein presence in urine temporarily, there may be other causes as well.

Before 20 weeks into pregnancy:

Proteinuria (presence of protein in urine) before 20 weeks into pregnancy is referred as chronic proteinuria which can be due to any underlying issue. It may be due to faulty functioning of the kidney or any other health condition which may or may not be linked to your pregnancy. Heart diseases or infections can be used as an example. Urinary tract infection may also potentially increase the protein levels in the urine and you may need immediate medical attention.

20 weeks into pregnancy:

Proteinuria can also be an early indicator of preeclampsia but that is after you’re 20 weeks into pregnancy, at this stage your healthcare provider would look more closely to make sure whether it may or may not be preeclampsia. The condition usually exhibits high blood pressure which can damage organs, precisely, the kidneys and liver. If not treated, it can pose some serious health risks for both, you and the baby.

The risk factors:

You should know that comparatively, your urine during pregnancy contains more protein that the urine when you’re not pregnant. Your blood volume increases during pregnancy and your kidney has to filter more amount of blood which causes the rise in protein levels and so, this makes pregnancy a risk factor for the increase in protein levels as well. If you had any chronic conditions before your pregnancy or if your family holds a history for conditions related to the liver and kidneys, you just may be at a higher risk. Some prominent risk factors for preeclampsia are being pregnant after the age of 35 with a first pregnancy and a family history of pregnancies with preeclampsia. Other risk factors include:

  • Twins, triplets or higher or multiple pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Health history such as diabetes or blood pressure
  • Large gap between pregnancies
  • IVF achieved pregnancy

Symptoms of proteinuria during pregnancy:

300mg/d is considered high protein content in urine and your condition may be symptomatic or asymptomatic. You might have no idea about it until you’re asked for urine tests on your next pre natal appointment. Symptoms that are exhibited may be similar to those of kidney disease and are as follows:

  • Urination with burning sensation
  • Ankles, wrists or eyes may be swelled up.
  • Increased frequency of urination which is also common during pregnancy itself
  • Back pain which is again common in pregnancy itself
  • Bloody, brownish or foamy urine.

What symptoms should you be concerned about?

You might observe some additional symptoms as well which is when you should be more concerned and immediately consult your healthcare provider. These symptoms of preeclampsia may be:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Visionary issues such as blurred vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe headaches
  • Lower urine output

Although it is normal to gain weight during pregnancy but sudden weight gain may be a bit alarming and you should let your doctor know about it. Sudden weight gain and swelling in any area of the body are warning signs that you should take into notice.

Proteinuria and its link to the diagnosis of preeclampsia:

Only the presence of protein in urine cannot accurately indicate that you may have preeclampsia, at time you may have preeclampsia and have no protein in urine. For an accurate diagnosis, your doctor for different signs and symptoms. Preeclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks into pregnancy and rarely occurs before that. The accompanying signs and symptoms would be:

  • Problems in liver functioning
  • Low platelets
  • Abdominal pain
  • Signs of kidney issues
  • Headaches
  • Visionary issues
  • Pulmonary edema

Your healthcare provider would keep a close look over your blood pressure for an accurate diagnosis and perform necessary tests which may be the following:

  • 24 hour collection of urine to test for protein.
  • Ultrasound to keep a check over the amount of amniotic fluid and the baby’s movements.
  • Blood tests to determine the functioning of your organs, specifically liver and kidneys and to keep a check over the number of platelets.
  • Tests to determine the baby’s health status such as its heartbeat and movements.

Treatment of protein in urine during pregnancy:

The treatment for protein in urine during pregnancy depends on the cause, trace amounts of protein is not concerning but higher amounts are worrisome. If the condition occurs due to an underlying cause during the early stages of pregnancy, your doctor would look into treatment options which would be safe for both, you and the baby. For cases of urinary tract infections, you shouldn’t be worried as it can be treated with antibiotics safely.

If you have been diagnosed with preeclampsia, your treatment would depend on the stage of pregnancy you’re in, severity of the condition and your baby’s health. The easiest way out of this condition is delivery of the baby but that may not be possible if you’re baby isn’t developed enough. Some other treatment options could be:

  • Medications for blood pressure: medications can be prescribed to lower the blood pressure such as antihypertensives, options which are safe for pregnancy are available.
  • Regular monitoring: your doctor would ask you to be monitored on a regular basis to keep a check over your and your baby’s condition.
  • Bed rest: exercises are healthy during pregnancy, only pregnancy friendly exercises though. When having preeclampsia, bed rest has been recommended but it no longer now as it has increased the risk of developing blood clots.

As mentioned before, the best treatment for preeclampsia is delivery but in case delivery is required early, the doctor may give corticosteroid injections for maturation of lungs. If not treated, there is higher risk of developing complications such as bleeding, seizures, stroke and placental abruption. Preeclampsia can also result in being fatal so if you notice any signs, immediately contact your doctor.

Preventing protein in urine during pregnancy:

During the early pregnancy, proteinuria is associated with underlying health conditions or genetic issues and so, there isn’t something you can really do about it. You should still take preventive measures if you’re planning on becoming pregnant.

Talk to your doctor and maintain a healthy diet, reduce sugar intake and consume lean protein, vegetables, fruits and keep your body hydrated. Try and maintain a healthy weight and make sure that your blood pressure is well maintained. If you just got pregnant, then the doctor can recommend a few ways in which you can reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia:

  • Calcium supplements: calcium supplements can help you avoid the condition in case you’re too deficient in calcium.
  • Low dose aspirin: although aspirin is available as an over the counter medication, we suggest that you shouldn’t take it without your doctor’s advice as there are many conditions in which you shouldn’t have it or have it in low dose.

If you’ve had preeclampsia in your previous pregnancy, it is very likely that you might have it again as well. Talk to your doctor about it and look for the best prevention methods.

The takeaway:

Presence of protein in urine is referred is proteinuria and there are many reasons why the conditions may occur. High amounts of protein in urine may indicate that you might have preeclampsia and if you notice other signs and symptoms of the conditions, immediately let your doctor know about it.

Make sure you go to all of your pre-natal appointments for the best care possible. Note that you must keep your body healthy for your baby’s healthy growth, maintain a healthy diet, lower sugar intake and have more vegetables, fruits and lean protein. Adopt a healthy lifestyle and don’t stress yourself out.

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