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Escherichia Coli In Pregnancy: Is It Dangerous?

As you undoubtedly know, humans live daily with millions of microorganisms that reside peacefully in our bodies. Some of these microscopic creatures sometimes multiply dramatically or “migrate” to other locations, causing some problems. An example? Escherichia coli is a “peaceful” bacterium with some harmful strains, especially for pregnant women. Let’s see what there is to know (and possibly fear) about Escherichia coli in pregnancy. 

What Is Escherichia Coli

Escherichia coli belongs to the entero bacteriaceae family, with the intestine as its natural habitat. Most strains are absolutely harmless and contribute to the well-being of the intestinal microbiota and, consequently, to ours. Others, however, are pathogenic, i.e., capable of triggering infections affecting various systems, such as the gastrointestinal or urinary systems. The symptoms, therefore, depend on which organs are involved.

What Disorders Does Escherichia Coli Cause

Depending on where it strikes, Escherichia coli can cause: 

  1. Enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine). 
  2. Urinary infections. 
  3. Hemorrhagic colitis.
  4. Meningitis.
  5. Septicemia. 

The modes of transmission are different. There may be a passage to other organs (for example, from the intestine to the urinary tract), contamination of food (undercooked meat, fresh vegetables, unpasteurized raw milk, and its derivatives), vegetables, drinking or bathing water, interpersonal contacts (including unprotected sexual intercourse), contact with animals (cattle, sheep) or their droppings. Symptoms vary depending on the affected system.  More frequently, Escherichia coli is responsible for gastroenteritis and urinary tract infections. 

In the first case, it causes diarrhea, cramps, sometimes fever, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. In the second case, on the other hand, the disturbances are typical of the urinary tract: pain or burning when urinating, the continuous urge to urinate, a sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder, painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), fever, malaise, cloudy, concentrated or foul-smelling urine, suprapubic or lumbosacral pain. In some cases, however, the infection is entirely asymptomatic. In still others, it can cause severe problems such as inflammation of the meninges or a generalized disorder of the body. 

Escherichia Coli Infections In Pregnancy

On our blog, we have repeatedly had the opportunity to point out that pregnancy makes women a little more vulnerable than they usually are. This happens because all the upheavals the body is subjected to during the 40 weeks weaken the immune system, which becomes more attackable. So we can be more subject to minor significant ailments that don’t make us feel good, even if we always want to be Wonder Woman. Having said this premise, it is easy to understand that Escherichia coli in pregnancy is not a rarity, especially for urinary tract diseases. 

Escherichia Coli Gastroenteritis In Pregnancy

As far as enteritis caused by this bacterium is concerned, the usual essential prevention rules apply :

  1. Cook the meat very well.
  2. Thoroughly wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Avoid unpasteurized milk and its derivatives.
  4. Scrupulously observe the basic rules of hygiene, for example, before, during, and after the preparation of meals. 
  5. In foreign or tropical countries, always drink bottled water and never tap water.

In case of acute gastrointestinal symptoms, it is advisable to consult your midwife or gynecologist, who can advise you on the best therapy (hydration and, if necessary, antibiotics). 

Is Escherichia Coli Dangerous In Pregnancy?

Thus, we arrive at the crucial point, whether Escherichia coli in pregnancy can be dangerous. In the case of gastrointestinal tract infections, the most severe complication could be dehydration, caused by loss of fluids with diarrhea and vomiting. The expectant mother must be well-rehydrated, even in the hospital if necessary.  

Urinary tract infections in pregnancy can also be a potential risk for the baby. They could involve miscarriage, intrauterine fetal death, premature birth (for example, from amniotic fluid infections), early rupture of membranes, and low birth weight (for placental infections).  It is, therefore, evident that Escherichia coli in pregnancy should not be taken lightly. Diagnosis and treatment are essential to avoid potentially serious problems. 

How Is Escherichia Coli Diagnosed? 

In the case of enteritis, the examination of the feces of the affected person is performed for the diagnosis of Escherichia coli. Depending on the symptoms, searching for the bacterium can also be done in other infected material, blood, or urine. It can ascertain an ongoing urinary tract infection, but it must be integrated with urine culture to identify the microorganisms responsible for the disease precisely. 

Not all bacteria respond to the same therapies, so you need to know exactly “who you are dealing with.” The test that tells us this is the antibiogram. Perhaps it is more apparent to you why urine tests are essential among the tests to be done during pregnancy and why they are prescribed regularly. Timely diagnosis allows you to start treatment early, significantly reducing the risks for mother and child. 

How To Treat Escherichia Coli In Pregnancy

The treatment of Escherichia coli involves the administration of antibiotics. Don’t worry: there are those compatible with the baby bump. Among the most suitable for asymptomatic bacteriuria and cystitis are fosfomycin and nitrofurantoin, even if the latter is not prescribed at the end of pregnancy. However, your doctor will decide what is best for you. 

Prevention Of Escherichia Coli In Pregnancy

We have listed the precautions to take to keep the gastrointestinal tract infection from Escherichia coli away. Here are some tips to prevent urinary tract infections in pregnancy. 

  1. Avoid or treat constipation. Increase your fiber intake, choose foods that stimulate intestinal mot” lity (yo “urt, pears, cooked fruit, flaxseed, plums, kiwis…), exercise a bit, and hydrate a lot. 
  2. Drink plenty of water. You might have to go back and forth to the bathroom more often, but at least your urine doesn’t stagnate. For the same reason, you should never hold your pee when it runs away. “Limit acidic foods. 
  3. Reduce the consumption of coffee, sugars, and hot and spicy foods. They are not very healthy.
  4. Take care of your hygiene. In particular, the intimate cleanser must not be aggressive but must respect the vaginal pH. If it changes, it becomes a breeding groDon’tor bacteria. 
  5. Wear comfortable, natural-fiber underwear. Synthetic fabrics do not allow sweat, with consequent bacterial proliferation. 
  6. Eat foods with antioxidant properties. For example, blueberries, currants, eggplants, red beets, and raspberries contain anthocyanins and are considered protective. 

Also Read: Smoking Weed During Pregnancy: Is It Dangerous?

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