Signs of Kidney Disease During Pregnancy

The changes that pregnancy brings to a woman’s body can induce certain disorders, including kidney disease. Preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced hypertension, and severe urinary tract infections can both be signs of kidney disease during pregnancy. Women who have kidney disorders prior to pregnancy are more likely to have kidney problems during pregnancy. There are signs of kidney disease that pregnant women should be familiar with, but the disorder does not always present with symptoms. The best prevention is regular medical exams with monitoring of kidney function and blood pressure.

Thoughtful mature pregnant woman relaxing on couch
Women can suffer from pregnancy-induced kidney problems. (Image: Yuri Arcurs/Hemera/Getty Images)

High Levels of Creatinine in Urine

One sign of kidney disease during pregnancy is high levels of creatinine in the urine. Creatine is an amino acid important for healthy muscles. When the acid is broken down in the kidneys, it becomes creatinine. This is the glomerular filtration rate, a way to measure kidney function. The normal range of creatinine excretion is 500 to 2,000 milligrams (mg), depending upon the woman’s age and body mass index. During pregnancy, more blood is filtered through the kidneys, causing the kidneys to work harder. This can result in permeability of the glomerulus, blood vessels in the kidneys that filter waste, which can lead to higher levels of creatinine in the urine, a sign of kidney disease or even kidney failure.

High Blood Pressure

Women who develop high blood pressure, or preeclampsia, during pregnancy should have their kidney function examined. High blood pressure damages the body’s vascular system, including blood vessels in the kidneys. This causes the kidneys to stop functioning properly and retain more fluid, which can lead to higher blood pressure. The risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy is greater in a woman who is obese, has a family history of hypertension or is multiparous—carrying more than one fetus.

Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection during pregnancy can be a sign of kidney disease. In a 2007 article in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, Dr. Kevin Krane explained that urinary tract infections may lead to kidney infections in about 33 percent of cases. Dr. Krane goes on to note that although urinary tract infections occur in pregnant women at about the same rate as non-pregnant women, the condition is much more serious in pregnant women and must be treated promptly. A urinary tract infection during pregnancy can cause renal failure and lead to an early delivery or low-birth-weight infant.

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