What are the Causes of Leukocytes in the Urine in Pregnancy?

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There are many tests that are taken while you are pregnant by your doctor. One test that is typically taken at each appointment is a urine test. This test is taken in order to detect the presence of leukocytes, while white blood cells. These are typically a sign of inflammation there are many reasons why they may appear in the urine of pregnant women will.

1. Urinary Tract Infection

One of the most common causes of leukocytes being present in a pregnant woman’s urine is a urinary tract infection. This is extremely common for women who are sexually active between the ages of 20 and 50 and is caused when bacteria travels from the skin through the urethra.


Because this is common, most women can recognize the symptoms of a urinary tract infection. The bacteria usually stop at the bladder, which can then cause inflammation and trigger the symptoms that we are all familiar with. However, this is not always the case and if the bacteria travels further than the bladder it can cause further damage to other organs such as the kidneys.

If you have found that you have a urinary tract infection and you are pregnant, it is important that you have it treated properly. If not, serious infections can occur to the kidneys.

2. Kidney Infection

If a urinary tract infection goes untreated, a kidney infection could be the result. Some of the main symptoms of a kidney infection are high fever, lower back and side pain, nausea, and vomiting.

This is the leading cause of women being admitted to the hospital while they are pregnant; however, a kidney infection is treatable with an antibiotic. If a kidney infection goes untreated premature labor or premature rupture of membranes could occur.



If you are having symptoms of a kidney infection, it is important that you talk to your doctor about them. However, your urine test that is taken at your doctor’s appointment could be a key indicator that you have a kidney infection.

3. Asymptomatic Bacteriuria

Although it only occurs in about 2 to 10% of pregnant women, it is possible for a woman to have a urinary tract infection and not have any symptoms. If this goes untreated while you’re pregnant a kidney infection could occur. It is also for this reason that doctor’s offices test the urine of pregnant women at each office visit.


4. Other

It is also possible for leukocytes to appear in the urine of pregnant women if the urine is mixed with vaginal secretions at the time the urine was collected. It is important for pregnant women to cleanse themselves thoroughly and to avoid touching the cup to their vagina while they are taking the sample.


What reason that leukocytes may appear is due to a weak bladder. This can sometimes occur when urine is withheld for an extended period of time. A weakened bladder can hold left over urine and cause the bladder to be unable to empty completely. This urine can become stagnant which can then lead to infections.

There are also certain medical conditions that can also cause leukocytes to be present in the urine, such as tumors, kidney, stones or abdominal trauma. Cystitis can also cause them to be present in the urine as well. Women with a weakened bladder for those who use catheters are at greater risk of having leukocytes in their urine.

5. Treatment

Leukocytes in the urine can be treated after they had been detected. At times, hospitalization is required, but it is more common for antibiotics to be prescribed instead. Women who are pregnant need to take their antibiotics as directed by their doctor in order to keep their pregnancy healthy and their baby safe from harm.


6. Conclusion

If leukocytes are found in the urine, it is important that the cause of them is treated carefully by your physician. Your doctor should share with you the results of your urine test at each appointment.

If you feel that you are having symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you need to talk to your doctor. The antibiotics are safe to use even while you’re pregnant and actually may be used throughout your entire pregnancy if you have recurring urinary tract infections.

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Regina Ledoux, RN, CNM

Ms. Ledoux began her career as an ObGyn nurse practitioner prior to becoming a practicing midwife in the Santa Cruz community. Working together with ObGyn physicians in her own practice, she has over 20 years experience in women's health, pregnancy and childbirth.