White stuff floating in my urine could I be pregnant?

Being pregnant can be very confusing. This is because the earliest sign of pregnancy is usually a missed period. However, before a missed period, there may be some changes in the body which could be a giveaway that a woman is pregnant. These changes are usually due to fluctuations in the hormonal levels caused by pregnancy. While it is obvious that a woman is pregnant in the later stages, these hormones can give conflicting signals in early pregnancy.

What hormones are produced in pregnancy?

Four main hormones play important roles in pregnancy, however, in early pregnancy, especially before a missed period, the hormones estrogen and progesterone are notorious for causing body changes that may make it difficult to differentiate a normal period from early pregnancy.

Estrogen. This group of hormones helps develop the female sexual traits. It is normally formed in the ovaries. It is also made by the placenta during pregnancy to help maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Progesterone. This hormone is made by the ovaries and by the placenta during pregnancy. It stimulates the thickening of the uterine lining for implantation of a fertilized egg. It also acts as a muscle relaxant, preventing the uterus from contracting until the onset of labour

Human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG). This hormone is only made during pregnancy. It is made almost exclusively in the placenta. HCG hormone levels found in the mother’s blood and urine rise a lot during the first trimester. They may play a part in the nausea and vomiting often linked to pregnancy. This is the hormone which is tested for by pregnancy test kits as its presence most often signifies pregnancy.

Human placental lactogen (hPL). This hormone is also known as human chorionic somatomammotropin. It is made by the placenta. It gives nutrition to the fetus. It also stimulates milk glands in the breasts for breastfeeding. Its levels increase as the pregnancy advances.

Early confusing body changes caused by pregnancy hormones.

In early pregnancy, progesterone and estrogen, which are also the main hormones that rise during a menstrual period, rise dramatically, while hcG is produced. The muscle relaxing properties of progesterone can also cause constipation, as it slows down the digestive tract.

Progesterone is also associated with that classic irritability in the premenstrual period and because the progesterone levels stay elevated during pregnancy, mood swings can be an important side effect.

Estrogen which increases blood flow for the baby also produces the achy and tender breasts associated with pregnancy. It is also associated with the stuffy nose and more frequency in urination associated with pregnancy. Estrogen also contributes to the health glow seen in the skin in pregnancy.

These early changes can therefore look like an exaggerated period, especially for women trying to conceive who are very much in tune with their body changes, and for whom the two week wait to a missed period is agonizingly too long.  While waiting for a pregnancy test to detect a positive result, there are a couple of myths or beliefs based on the urine said to predict a positive pregnancy test, especially before a missed period.

What does the urine contain during pregnancy?

Right from ancient times, the urine of a pregnant woman has always been a subject for several postulations and theories. While many theories have been found to be scientifically incorrect, one thing for sure is the recognition that a pregnant woman’s urine is different from a non- pregnant woman’s urine.

During pregnancy, the main change that occurs in the urine, is the presence of hCG. This hormone is specific to pregnancy and is excreted in the urine. Pregnancy can also lead to passage of more frequent, dilute urine due to the changes in different organs, especially the kidneys and the circulatory system. Occasionally, the urine can be more concentrated when symptoms leading to dehydrated like nausea, vomiting, and less intake of fluids occur. Some pregnant women’s urine may transiently contain glucose and trace amounts of protein. While these are mostly normal, persistence of these substances, may require further investigation.

Could white particles in the urine indicate pregnancy?

The normal urine, even in a pregnant woman is supposed to be clear, and slightly amber colored. Particles can occur in the urine in some situations. In early pregnancy, white particles may be seen in the urine due to leukorrhea. This is normal vaginal discharge that is usually thin and milky. A study reported about 73.9% of pregnant women to have leukorrhea, with bacterial and fungal infections as the leading causes.

While these particles are associated with pregnancy, they do not indicate pregnancy or the presence of hCG and are predictors of pregnancy as these infections can also occur in non-pregnant women.

Another cause of whitish particles in the urine is a Urinary Tract Infection(UTI). Pregnancy is also a risk factor for a urinary tract infection, and just like leukorrhea, while pregnancy is a risk factor for a UTI, a UTI, does not indicate pregnancy and needs to be treated, especially if a woman is pregnant to avoid complications like a miscarriage.

A foamy, whitish urine can also be seen when the protein content of the urine is high (proteinuria). This condition is potentially dangerous and should be evaluated by a doctor to prevent life threatening complications. It does not indicate pregnancy and is not normal in pregnancy.

Other unorthodox tests associated with testing for pregnancy using urine include:

  • The salt test. This is done by adding a pinch or two of salt with an early morning sample of urine in a clean glass and mixed together, then observed for about 5 minutes. A positive pregnancy test is assumed if there are creamy white clumps from the reaction, while a negative test is when nothing happens and the salt just dissolves in the urine.  There is no scientific basis for this method as there has been no record of a reaction between hcG and salt. Any change if noticed at all, may be due to the pH of the urine which is affected by several other factors including the health condition in a pregnant woman.
  • The sugar test. This is similar to the salt test, but sugar is used instead of salt. A slowly dissolving sugar or clumps indicate a positive test while a negative test is reported if the sugar easily dissolves in the water. Again, while hCG contains 30% of sugar by weight, there is no scientific basis for a visible reaction between hCG and sugar in a urine sample.
  • Dandelion leaves test. This is done by placing a few dandelion leaves on a plastic sheet, and pouring the urine sample over the leaves. The leaves are observed for between 10 minutes to 1 hour. If the leaves turn reddish-brown with blisters, or there is a bubble, the test is said to be positive for pregnancy and if nothing happens, it is negative. While dandelion is known for its diuretic effects, this test is yet another one with no scientific basis.
  • Overnight or stored urine test. In this test, a sample of urine is collected and kept for 24 hours. A thin layer of film noticed on the surface of the urine is regarded as a positive pregnancy test while absence of film means it is negative. Normally, even in non-pregnant women, urine kept at room temperature over time like 24 hours may change color and become darkened, become more turbid or cloudy due to crystal formation, bacterial growth, or vaginal discharge contamination. Also, urine can be ‘oily’ causing a film over it when a person is dehydrated, when the urine contains ketones like in diabetes, or when the urine contains chlye, seen in some parasitic conditions like lymphatic filariasis.  Unfortunately, none of these conditions are associated with hCG.

What is the best test for pregnancy?

As nerve wrecking as it can be waiting for 2 weeks to confirm pregnancy, a pregnancy test is the best way to confirm a pregnancy. It measures the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the body. HcG starts to build up once the fertilized egg implants in the uterus (womb) about 10 days after concept ion. These tests can be either blood or urine. A urine test is often taken at home, while a blood test is done in a health facility.

Most at-home pregnancy tests are 97% to 99% accurate when used as instructed. Positive results can be trusted, but a falsely negative result can be gotten very early in pregnancy, especially before a missed period. The accuracy is increased if the sample is an early morning urine sample and large quantities of water is not taken about 30 minutes before the test.

So if you are wondering if you are pregnant, try to wait out the two weeks after ovulation, and if a period is missed, proceed to test using the pregnancy test. Be sure to book an appointment with a doctor if you notice whitish sediments in your urine.