Protein in Urine During Pregnancy: Can it Harm the Baby?

First pregnancy is like a journey without a map, without a clue and without any experience. During this journey, you are excited but also anxious about every small change in your body. And pregnancy changes every aspect of your body, from your external appearance to your metabolism. It’s like a woman adapting to become a mother.

One such common metabolic change is proteinuria. Presence of protein in your urine is known as proteinuria.

Can  Protein in Urine During Pregnancy Harm the Baby?

What is proteinuria and is it normal?

Kidneys are the organs which make urine. They act as a gate which filters the nutrients required for our body and excretes the rest. Proteins are always retained in the body. They are not found in urine. But during pregnancy, our metabolism is very disturbed so protein less than 0.3gm in a full day specimen of urine is acceptable. Above this level, the body might be indicating some problem. So during an antenatal visit, you will be told to give your urine sample. Now collecting a urine sample is very important. Since any impurity may hamper the result.

How to collect urine sample?

Your doctor will tell you to collect a midstream urine sample. First, you should wipe your vagina with a clean and wet cloth, and then by separating the labia collect the sample after some urine is discarded. The reason to do this is, many bacteria are present in the vaginal region, the start of stream washes all the bacteria, and the middle stream gives the proper result.

Diseases caused by abnormal amount of proteinuria

Proteinuria more than 0.3g per day and blood pressure more than140/90 mm of mercury indicates preeclampsia. Proteinuria can be an early indicator of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious, even fatal complications for both you and your baby. If you have preeclampsia, the most effective treatment is delivery of your baby. Even after delivering the baby, it can still take a while for you to get better.

Here are some condition that proteinuria may indicate-

Preeclampsia:

Proteinuria more than 0.3g per day and blood pressure more than140/90 mm of mercury indicates preeclampsia. Proteinuria can be an early indicator of preeclampsia.

Risk factors for preeclampsia are:

  • Pregnancy in very young or very elderly female– Pregnancy below the age of 18 years and above the age of 35 years is at a risk of developing preeclampsia.
  • Family history of preeclampsia or hypertension– Genes are responsible for preeclampsia as well as hypertension in pregnancy. Hence giving a proper medical history to your doctor is very important.
  • Obesity– BMI more than 35kg/m2 is a risk factor for preeclampsia.
  • Any history related to blood diseases– History of leukaemia, coagulation disorders, may indicate the increased risk of preeclampsia.

Symptoms of the presence of protein in urine, which is also indicative of preeclampsia

  • Swelling of ankles:

It is important to understand why this swelling happens in the first place. Albumin is a protein found in blood, which helps in absorbing bodily fluids into the bloodstream. Because of its molecule size, it can easily enter the urine. When this happens over a certain period of time, your body will start retaining the fluid, resulting in fluid detention. This causes the swelling of ankles. Even if this is not the cause behind the swelling, swellings are nevertheless abnormal. Therefore, we would advise you to consult the doctor about this. Decrease your stress levels, and also have some rest.

  • Tightness of ring in finger:

The swelling we talked about in the first point is not limited to the ankles in this case. When you see that the swelling spreads to the other parts of the body, then it is advised to immediately consult the doctor. Most commonly it is first noticed at your fingers when your ring gets tight. Do consult a doctor immediately.

  • Abnormal swelling:

Any abnormal swelling of the body may indicate some metabolic problem.

  • Headaches:

Headaches can be indicative of a lot of things. But if you experience constant headaches, that too at the front and back of your head, then it could possibly be a sign of protein being present in your urine.

  • Disturbed sleep:

Disturbance in regular sleep pattern is indicative of proteinuria.

  • Diminished urinary output:

Normally during pregnancy, uterus grows in size it pushes the bladder, due to which the size of the bladder is bit decreased. Hence normally the frequency of urination increases, but the urinary output is same. But in preeclampsia, the urinary output abnormally decreases.

  • Coffee colour vomiting:

Preeclampsia progresses to a bleeding disorder also. So due to bleeding in the stomach, there might be coffee colour vomiting.

  • Eye symptoms:

Like blurring and diminishing of vision, but the vision is regained within 4-6 weeks.

Hazards to baby:

  • Growth retardation in the uterus
  • Accidental haemorrhage
  • Prematurity
  • Diminishing of oxygen

HELLP syndrome:

It is a life-threatening complication of preeclampsia. It is characterized by-

  1. H- hypertension
  2. EL- elevated liver enzymes
  3. LP- low platelet count

It leads to serious complications to the mother as well as the baby. Baby might be low birth weight, premature, and stillbirth. So it is very necessary to manage preeclampsia.

What causes protein in urine during pregnancy?

There are several causes behind the occurrence of proteinuria and subsequently preeclampsia during pregnancy. The causes are as follows:

Urinary tract infection or kidney infection:

It is one of the common cause of proteinuria in pregnancy. Urinary tract infection may lead to excretion of protein in the urine, other symptoms are-

  1. Burning sensation while urinating.
  2. Acute pain in lower abdomen
  3. Foul odour to urine
  4. Change in normal urine pattern

Take proper treatment for urinary tract infection. The doctor will prescribe you antibiotics, complete the whole dose; do not leave the treatment in middle. Or the infection may return with greater force.

Excessive stress:

Excessive stress may lead to hormonal imbalance due to which, the protein may be excreted in urine. We understand being pregnant is not easy at all. It not only involves physical changes but mental and social too. Due to all these changes, it is normal to be stressed. But stop right here. It is the period to enjoy and pamper yourself. Try to remain as stress-free as possible. Pregnancy yoga, good songs, books, lectures, or practicing your hobby will really reduce your stress levels.

Dehydration:

our body has a mechanism to maintain our normal body fluid. This mechanism is really complicated. But in simple terms, as you may have observed that, when you drink plenty of water, your urine is colorless While when you drink low amounts of water, urine is of yellow colour, sometimes it even burns while urinating. This is because, when you drink less water, kidney keeps all the amount of water required and just excretes the waste like creatinine, urea, uric acid which makes urine acidic and concentrated. In excessive dehydration, kidney fails to function properly and proteins may also be excreted. So make it sure that you are well hydrated.

Diabetes:

Diabetes may already be present, or you may get diabetes during pregnancy, this is known as gestational diabetes. In diabetes mainly glucose is excreted, sometimes ketones and proteins rarely. Diabetes in pregnancy is caused due to various metabolic changes in the body. Diabetes should be properly managed, or it may lead to complications.

Chronic kidney disease:

If you have a mild chronic disease, your doctor may advise you not to get pregnant. Because in pregnancy there is a lot of load on the kidney. Hence mild kidney disease may progress to severe kidney disease or even kidney failure. If your kidney disease is detected after you get pregnant, constant monitoring will be required. You should prepare yourself. You have to be strong. Because your health is directly related to that little one you are carrying.

Will protein in urine during pregnancy harm my baby?

This disease is treatable, but since it occurs during pregnancy, there are certain hazards that your baby might face. These life threatening hazards include growth retardation in the uterus, accidental haemorrhage, prematurity and diminishing of oxygen, which could even result in death. Remember, your baby will not suffer if you take proper care of your health. Follow your doctor’s advice, but do not take the stress.

Treatment of proteinuria

Proteinuria is not a disease, it is merely an indication of abnormal body functioning. During pregnancy special attention has to be given. As our age-old golden rule says, “ Earlier the diagnosis better the  prognosis.” There is no need to stress on small problems, but do not even neglect them. Consult a doctor immediately for an uncomfortable situation or abnormal pain.

General care to be taken

  1. Do not miss your antenatal or postnatal visits
  2. Do all your tests on time.
  3. Don’t stress yourself, enjoy your every moment with the baby instead of worrying
  4. Take foods which are nutritious and beneficial for you and baby
  5. Follow doctors advise
  6. Maintain proper hygiene and care.

So this was all about proteinuria. Yes, some of the causes of proteinuria seem to be dangerous, but they are manageable. Remember, the earlier the detection, easier the management.

It is easy to just advice not to take the stress, but actually, it’s difficult. We know that, but you have to accept and work to make your pregnancy a successful one. Nowadays many complicated pregnancies are delivered successfully. Thanks to the medical progress and vigilant parents like you. So be aware, seek proper medical help and take care of yourself. Because after a few months there will be someone who will always cry for your attention and you will feel that all this pain was worth that tiny touch.

Management:

Preeclampsia is a condition which can be managed and not treated; hence it is very necessary to know about the symptoms mentioned above. Since early the diagnosis, better the management.

  • Always be alert of any unusual swelling.
  • Check your urine as recommended
  • Do not stress yourself excessively
  • If you have any family history, inform your doctor about it, they will start management from the start

Remember, your baby will not suffer if you take proper care of your health. Follow all your doctor’s advice, but do not take the stress.

Hope this article was of help to you! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy, Healthy and Empowered Women!!