When to see a doctor for UTI
Your doctor can help you deal with UTIs by giving you a diagnosis, offering treatment if you need it, and helping to make sure you get urgent treatment if you have a kidney infection.
You’ll also need to see your doctor if your UTIs keep coming back as you might need different treatments to get them under control.
See a doctor if your UTI doesn’t go away on its own within 48 hours or if:
- this is the first time you’ve had a UTI
- you're pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI (see UTI in pregnancy, below)
- you have symptoms of a UTI after surgery
- your symptoms don’t improve, or get worse, within 48 hours without treatment, or within 2 days of starting antibiotics
- your symptoms have come back within 6 months after treatment for a UTI
- you’ve had 2 episodes in 6 months, or 3 episodes in 12 months
- you have blood in your pee
- you could be at risk of an STI
- you’re over 65 years old
- you have a catheter
- you have a weakened immune system
There are other conditions that can cause urinary symptoms too. If you keep needing to pee urgently or frequently, or you also notice you're losing weight, getting more bloated or have ongoing belly pain, then it’s important to see a doctor. These are potential signs of ovarian cancer, but it’s much rarer – a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 78.
UTI during pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones can make a UTI more likely and make any bacteria in your bladder more likely to spread to your kidneys. When you’re pregnant you may have trouble completely emptying your bladder because your uterus – which is home to your developing baby – sits on top of your bladder. Leftover pee with bacteria in it can then cause a UTI.
Throughout your pregnancy your pee will be tested to check for infections. If any bacteria is found this will be treated with antibiotics – even if you don’t have symptoms – that are safe to take during pregnancy.
Always see a doctor if you’re pregnant and you think you may have a UTI. If left untreated, it could lead to a kidney infection and that can result in complications, such as premature birth and low birth weight. But it’s important to know that treating any bacteria picked up on routine urine screening during pregnancy can reduce your chances of getting a kidney infection, and early treatment can help prevent the risk of complications.
If you're pregnant and you’re having unexpected contractions, severe abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, see your doctor straight away.
When to get urgent medical help for a UTI
One in every 100 UTIs leads to a kidney infection. Get a same-day doctor’s appointment or get urgent care if you have any of the symptoms of kidney infection mentioned above. Rarely, a kidney infection can lead to sepsis if it’s not treated, which needs emergency medical attention.
How is a UTI diagnosed?
Your doctor or nurse will discuss your symptoms, and if it’s unclear whether you have a UTI, they will use a dipstick urine test to check for infection, which acts like a UTI test by looking for the bacteria that cause UTIs. In some cases, you’ll be treated without needing a sample, but in others, a sample will need to be sent to a lab for urine culture testing. This is more likely if you:
- are pregnant
- have blood in your pee
- have recurrent UTIs
- have an underlying problem with your urinary tract
- have a catheter
- are over 65 years old
Antibiotics for UTI
your doctor may prescribe a short course of antibiotics, usually a 3-day course. If your symptoms are mild your doctor may suggest you wait for 48 hours before taking the antibiotics, just in case your symptoms clear up on their own
you’ll most likely get a slightly longer course of treatment if you’re pregnant or if you have more serious symptoms
it’s important you finish the course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better in 2 days. Some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics, so if your infection doesn’t clear up with your first prescription, see your doctor again. They will usually take a urine sample and send this to a lab for a urine culture test. This can help identify the specific bacteria causing your infection. You’ll then be prescribed alternative antibiotics that can help fight it