There is no evidence that lower urinary tract infections (UTIs) in a woman affects her ability to conceive, but upper tract (kidney) infections might. In addition, note that infections in your male partner can affect his fertility. Furthermore, once you get pregnant, UTIs can cause problems for you and your baby.
Female UTIs and Ability to Conceive
Urinary tract infections are common in women. However, although the lower urinary tract - bladder and urethra - sit next to the reproductive tract, a lower UTI in a woman is not a known conception problem. There are no reports of bacteria spreading from the urinary tract to infect the reproductive tract although the reverse can occur.
Specifically, a urinary tract infection does not affect any of the following steps in fertility:
- The ability of the sperm to reach the egg in the fallopian tube
- The processes by which a sperm penetrates and fertilizes the egg in the tube
- The ability of the early embryo to reach the uterus and implant in the lining
Note, however, if a lower urinary tract (bladder) is not adequately treated, it might progress to infect the upper tract and kidneys. A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) can damage the kidneys or spread through the blood circulation to other parts of your body.
Ultimately, chronic kidney disease can affect your health and ovulation process and make it harder to conceive. It is therefore important, if you have symptoms of a UTI, to diagnose and treat the infection quickly.
UTIs, Reproductive Tract Infections, and Conception
Be careful not to mistake your symptoms of a reproductive tract infection for those of a UTI. If you are having trouble getting pregnant and have recurrent symptoms that suggest a UTI, go see your doctor.
An investigation of your symptoms can determine if a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is the cause of your conception difficulties instead of a UTI. Infections in the female genital tract are a well-known cause of damage to the cervix, uterus, tubes, and ovaries, which can severely affect your ability to conceive, according to a Global Library of Women's Medicine article.
Please note that a pelvic infection might cause symptoms that are similar to those of a UTI, including:
- The constant urge to urinate, and burning when you urinate
- Feeling of discomfort or pressure on your bladder
- Discomfort, pressure, or pain in the areas of your urethra, vagina, or pelvic organs
A doctor's exam and lab testing can reveal the correct diagnosis so you can get adequate treatment for either problem.
Effect of UTI on Pregnancy
The incidence of urinary tract infections increase during pregnancy because of changes in the urinary tract. The increased chance for bacteria to collect in the urinary tract and cause a UTI starts soon after you get pregnant.
There is no risk to you if you try to conceive while you have a UTI. However, once you get pregnant, a UTI, or bacteria in your urine without an infection (asymptomatic bacteriuria), increases the risk for poor pregnancy outcomes. Based on an American Family Physician review, you and your baby have an increased risk for:
- A miscarriage before 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Slow fetal growth
- Uterine contractions and onset of labor before term (37 weeks of gestation)
- Premature birth and low birth weight
- Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in you
- High blood pressure disorders of pregnancy and preeclampsia
Prevention and Treatment
If you are trying to conceive and you are concerned about your fertility, it is best to prevent any potential sources of infection that might interfere with conception or a pregnancy. To avoid a UTI, drink enough water, empty your bladder as soon as you have the urge to, and be careful to avoid contaminating your urethra with bacteria when you wipe after you urinate.
Treat UTIs Promptly
It is important to identify and treat any UTI before you conceive to decrease the risk to your early pregnancy. An infection can easily be treated with antibiotics.
Many women get pregnant while taking antibiotics for a UTI without any harm to the fetus. You can safely take any antibiotic used to treat UTIs while you are trying to conceive, and during pregnancy most antibiotics are also safe to take.
Male UTIs and Conception
Unlike women, an infection in the male urinary tract can affect male fertility and conception, according to Dr. Fisch of Cornell University. Because of the structure of male reproductive and urinary systems, organisms in a man's bladder and urethra can spread to his reproductive tract.
Spread of bacteria to the prostate gland and other reproductive structures can lower the sperm count and decrease sperm motility and other semen factors, which can cause male infertility if not treated.
Don't Ignore Your Symptoms
Don't ignore bladder or pelvic symptoms, especially if you are trying to get pregnant. Although UTIs are unlikely to cause a problem with conception, early treatment decreases the risks to your pregnancy. In addition, encourage your partner to get an evaluation and treatment to protect his fertility if he has symptoms of a UTI or an STI.