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Postpartum Bladder and Kidney Infections

By Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology in Surgery, The Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit; Attending Physician, The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

A bladder infection (cystitis) sometimes develops after delivery of a baby. The risk is increased when a catheter is placed in the bladder to relieve a buildup of urine during and after labor, particularly if the catheter is left in place for a while.

A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is caused by bacteria spreading from the bladder to the kidney after delivery.

Sometimes a bladder or kidney infection develops because bacteria that were in the bladder during pregnancy cause no symptoms until after delivery.


Bladder and often kidney infections cause painful or frequent urination. Kidney and some bladder infections cause fever. Kidney infections may cause pain in the lower back or side and a general feeling of illness or discomfort.


  • Examination and analysis of a urine sample

  • Culture of the urine sample

The diagnosis of bladder and kidney infections is based on examination and analysis of a urine sample. With kidney infections and some bladder infections, the sample may be cultured to identify the bacteria.


  • Antibiotics

Typically, women are given an antibiotic intravenously for a kidney infection or by mouth for a bladder infection.

If there is no evidence that the bladder infection has spread to the kidneys, antibiotics may be given for only a few days. If a kidney infection is suspected, antibiotics (such as ceftriaxone alone or ampicillin plus gentamicin) are given until the woman has had no fever for 48 hours. Often, antibiotics are then given by mouth for 7 to 14 days. After culture results are available, the antibiotic may be changed to one that is more effective against the bacteria present.

Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep the kidneys functioning well and flushes bacteria out of the urinary tract.

Another urine sample is cultured 6 to 8 weeks after delivery to verify that the infection is cured.

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