Proteinuria in Pregnancy

Proteinuria is a condition where an abnormal amount of protein is found in urine. Since albumin is the most abundant protein found in blood, its levels increase the most and this is why it's also known as albuminuria. Proteinuria is often a manifestation of kidney damage or a result of protein overproduction which is a usual finding in pregnancy. But is it normal?

What Does Proteinuria During Pregnancy Mean?

Pregnant women care so much about their babies that any health condition alerts them. So what does proteinuria in pregnancy really indicate? Let's briefly discuss various causes of it.

1. Normal Phenomenon

Small amount of protein in urine is an extremely common occurrence during pregnancy and could be that your kidneys are working much harder since you are pregnant now.

But proteinuria is considered abnormal and alarming when it exceeds 300mg/24 hours. Its identification, evaluation and assessment are very important and your gynecologist would be extra cautious and attentive towards it if it's the second half of pregnancy.

2. Preeclampsia

Protein in urine accompanied by high blood pressure and fluid retention during pregnancy may indicate pre-eclampsia. What's more, elevated protein levels in blood and urine in the second half of pregnancy could be an even stronger indication. Early diagnosis and treatment of the condition is of immense importance to ensure you give birth to a healthy baby, preventing complications like baby born with a low weight. A healthy, low sodium diet along with exercise is recommended to manage pre-eclampsia.

3. Kidney or Urinary Tract Infection

Another reason behind proteinuria in pregnancy is a urinary tract infection, which is extremely common in pregnant women. It is characterized by discomfort while passing urine along with an increased urge to urinate. Urinary tract infection, if not treated promptly, may eventually lead to a kidney infection and increase chances of premature labor and low birth weight baby. Clinical features of kidney infection are fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and back pains.

4. Other Meanings

While there are medical conditions responsible for the increase in protein in urine, there are also factors that cause a short-lived proteinuria and may not be that dangerous. Such factors include:

  • Fever
  • Medication
  • Dehydration
  • Emotional stress
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Exposure to extreme temperatures

Test Your Proteinuria Levels to Know If It's Serious

The test for proteinuria in pregnancy is a routine test conducted by your physician or mid wife as a part of antenatal care. The lowest protein level is marked by trace amounts and any quantity greater than that is indicated by a (+) sign. Bearing in mind the results of your tests, further appointments would be scheduled and protein levels would be assessed.

Protein level assessment is especially important in the second half of pregnancy because its presence strongly points towards preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication, as already mentioned.

When to See a Doctor

Medical attention should be sought immediately if the following signs and symptoms are experienced, especially in the second half of pregnancy;

  • Malaise
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling in face, hands, tummy, ankles or feet
  • Blurred vision or flashing in eyes
  • Headaches or pain in upper abdominal area

Seeking medical attention is vital to know the exact cause of proteinuria in pregnancy and treatment should be initiated promptly, especially in the presence of one or more of the following conditions:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Leukemia
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Lupus
  • Chronic kidney disease

If you want to know more about proteinuria and its cause, watch the video below for more information: 

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