3 Serious Causes Of Protein In Urine During Pregnancy

protein in urine during pregnancy

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While you are pregnant, urine tests constitute a part of the regular prenatal visits to the doctor, to check for infections and different conditions. Proteinuria or presence of protein in urine during pregnancy must be determined in time to ensure your kidney functions are normal.

Presence of protein in urine in small amounts during pregnancy is normal. But sometimes protein in urine may suggest dysfunction of the kidney or can signify stress, infection and other conditions.

Protein In Urine During Pregnancy: What Does It Mean:

Proteinuria is an excess amount of protein found in urine. It is usually identified through urinalysis, a test that analyzes urine constituents.

It is normal that some loss of protein occurs in urine. But if that loss is greater than 300mg (0.3gm), it is a sign of proteinuria. It is an indication of kidney disease resulting in improper blood filtration.
Proteinuria can be of two types – Chronic proteinuria and new onset proteinuria.

Chronic Proteinuria:

It is a condition that is present prior to your pregnancy. Proteinuria that is identified before 20 weeks of conception is also chronic proteinuria as it usually occurs due to a pre-existing kidney disease.

Onset Proteinuria:

It comes up during pregnancy and is more likely due to a condition known as preeclampsia.

What Causes Protein In Urine During Pregnancy?

Kidneys usually filter waste products from blood and retain components that your body needs, including proteins. But due to certain health conditions, your body will let these proteins leak through the kidneys into the urine.

1. Preeclampsia:

The syndrome is characterized by high blood pressure and protein loss in urine. Proteinuria along with hypertension usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It does not show any other symptoms but if the condition is severe, you can experience headaches, swelling of the hands and face, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased urination and blurring of vision.

A severe form of preeclampsia will lead to failure of multiple organs like kidneys, liver, brain, eye, heart and lungs.

[ Read: Preeclampsia During Pregnancy ]

2. Eclampsia:

Eclampsia is a condition where generalized seizures occur along with preeclampsia. The seizures or convulsions occur before, during or after labor. It is an obstetrical emergency that requires immediate intervention.

3. HELLP Syndrome:

HELLP syndrome, usually a variant of preeclampsia, is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy. It is known for its characteristics – H (hemolysis, the breakdown of RBCs), EL (elevated liver enzymes) and LP (low platelet count).

The initial symptoms may seem like preeclampsia. The common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, upper abdominal pain, headaches, feeling of illness and blurring of vision. HELLP syndrome can result in serious complications like liver and kidney damage, pulmonary edema, placental abruption and disseminated intravascular coagulation.

During pregnancy, preeclampsia syndrome increases the risk of eclampsia and HELLP. These conditions can cause adverse outcomes including low birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction and death of the newborn.

4. Urinary Tract Infection Or Kidney Infection:

The presence of protein in urine while pregnant can also be because of urinary tract infections. Here is what you should check:

  • Do you have a frequent urge to urinate?
  • Do you experience discomfort while urinating?
  • Urinary tract infections must be treated promptly to avoid conditions like kidney infections that may surface in the form of back pains, vomiting, nausea, and chills.
  • Infection in the urinary tract may also affect your baby. It leads to premature delivery and low birth weights.

If you have a UTI, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic that is safe to take during pregnancy.

[ Read: Kidney Infection During Pregnancy ]

5. Other Factors That Lead To Presence Of Protein In Urine:

Here are some other reasons for protein in urine during pregnancy:

  • Excessive emotional stress
  • Exposure to high temperature
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Strenuous exercises
  • Leukemia, lupus, chronic kidney disease, arthritis, and diabetes may also cause presence of protein in urine.

Symptoms Of Protein in Urine During Pregnancy:

You can know if you have proteinuria through these symptoms:

  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Swollen face
  • Foamy urine

From mid-pregnancy, you should check for signs of preeclampsia. The symptoms include:

  • Blurring of vision
  • Sudden swelling of hands, feet and face
  • Constant headaches
  • General feeling of illness
  • Persistent heartburn
  • Severe pain below the rib region

It is important to see a doctor when you experience the above symptoms. The symptoms come on quickly from the 27th week of pregnancy or in the initial weeks post delivery.

[ Read: Tips To Reduce Swelling During Pregnancy ]

Tests And Diagnosis Of Protein in Urine During Pregnancy:

There are various methods to detect proteinuria. Prominent among them are:

1. The Dipstick Test:

Here, a urine sample is taken, and a chemically treated strip is inserted into the content. There are patches on the strip that change in color revealing the presence of protein in the urine. The dipstick also shows the presence of glucose levels and, therefore, can also be used for screening gestational diabetes.

The test shows the level of protein in urine, classified as + to ++++, +1 being low and +4 being high. A high protein in urine during pregnancy indicates preeclampsia condition or kidney damage. A low level indicates UTI.

2. 24-hour Urine Protein Test:

Serum proteins are extracted before they are released from the kidney. Because of the imperfect renal glomeruli, trace amounts of protein are found in the urine. If the amount of protein is large, it is known to be abnormal, reflecting a kidney condition.

[ Read: Essential Tests To Take During Pregnancy ]

A urine sample, i.e., spot urine or a 24-hour collection of the urine sample helps measure the protein. The latter is more accurate than the former.

The test can be performed at home or in the hospital. You should collect urine over a 24 hour period in containers. Usually, the first urine soon after you wake up in the morning is not counted. You need to collect from the next time for the next 24 hours. Store in a cool environment or on the ice. The samples are taken for analysis.

If the protein in urine is more than 300mg in a 24-hour period, it is a sign of preeclampsia.

Urine Protein (Normal)
24 hours10–140 mg/24 hours
Spot Urine10–14 mg/L
Spot Urine Dipstick“Negative”
Urine Protein (Pregnancy)
24 hours<300 mg/24 hours
Spot Urine<300 mg/L
Spot Urine Dipstick“Negative” or “Trace”

Via: Source

Normal range of urine protein:

  • Non-pregnant: Less than 140mg (0.14g)/ 24 hours
  • Pregnancy First Trimester: No Normal Values
  • Pregnancy Second Trimester: 0 to 255mg (0.26g)/ 24 hours
  • Pregnancy Third Trimester: 0 to 254mg (0.25g)/ 24 hours

Detecting small amounts of protein in urine is common during pregnancy. It occurs because of various reasons and could mean that your kidneys are working better. It can also be because your body fights minor infections.

Urine protein test is a routine check-up your healthcare provider does at every antenatal appointment, and adds the test results in the maternity reports. Depending on the protein levels in urine during pregnancy, your doctor may schedule the next appointment.

If  levels are too high along with increased blood pressure, then you will have a blood test to check cell count, clotting, and liver and kidney function.

If there are any abnormalities found in the blood test, you may require staying for further monitoring.

Treatment Of Protein In Urine During Pregnancy:

Proteinuria is not any disease. The treatment solely depends on identifying the cause and managing.

For instance, if you are a diabetic, you need to control it by exercising, taking balanced diet and medication. If proteinuria is due to hypertension, you may need to take treatment for that particular condition.

[ Read: Blood Pressure During Pregnancy ]

In addition to controlling the underlying disorder, you should also restrict the amounts of salt in your diet. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a dietician for a diet plan. You should also take more quantities of water.

Moms, did you find the information helpful? Do share your experiences in the comment section below.

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