Last updated: March 9, 2020
Kate Killoran M.D.
Obstetrics & Gynecology
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Avoid a painful UTI with our guide to preventing the infection before it starts.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) can be annoying, painful and in some cases, serious. Unfortunately women are especially prone to these below the belt infections because of their anatomy. UTIs are the most frequent bacterial infections in women accounting for nearly 25% of all infections. Between 50 and 60% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime. Women are eight times more likely to get a UTI then men.
UTIs occur when bacteria travels into the urinary system through the urethra and then multiple in the bladder. The body does have built in defenses to stop these type of invaders, but when the systems fail the infection will begin.
In women most often the bladder and the urethra become infected. Infection of the bladder is known as cystitis and is often caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), however this is not always the case.
Infection of the urethra is known as urethritis and is caused when G.I. bacteria is spread from the anus to the urethra. This type of UTI can also be caused by STDs like herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, mycoplasma and trichomonas.
Symptoms of a UTI
- Pelvic pressure
- Frequent painful urination
- Persistent pain in the lower abdomen
- Blood in urine
- Burning sensation during urination
- High fever
- Chills and shaking
- Pain in side and upper back\
While the symptoms of UTIs are not pleasant, they are often preventable. Check out our top five ways to prevent UTIs.
1.Wipe Front to Back
Most little girls have the rule drilled into their heads from their early potty training days but it really can make a difference. One of the reasons women are more likely to suffer from UTIs is the proximity of the urethra to the anus.
By wiping front to back women are discouraging bacteria from entering their urinary tract each time they wipe.
2. Empty Your Bladder after Sex
Sexually active women are more likely to get a UTI than women who are not sexually active. The risk increases when a woman starts getting intimate with a new partner.
Peeing after sex can help flush out any bacteria that has entered the urinary tract before it hits the bladder. While peeing before and after sex is important to help prevent UTIs there is no reason to jump out of bed to run to the restroom.
Taking the time to cuddle and enjoy some intimate moments is not going to necessarily increase your risk of UTI.
3. Have Protected Sex
While the risk of UTIs is much higher in women, men can also experience UTIs. Men who engage in unprotected sex with women with vaginal infections may be at a higher risk for UTIs. Many of the symptoms of a UTI may mimic those of other sexually transmitted infections. Failing to get a UTI treated can lead to serious consequences and in some rare circumstances may lead to death. The vaginal infections likely to result in male UTIs are colonization with a uropathogen or an STI. More likely risks are with anal intercourse and an uncircumcised penis.
4. Drink Plenty of Liquids
Drinking plenty of liquids, especially water, is a great way to keep your body hydrated. In addition, it can be helpful to prevent any build-up of bacteria in your bladder and expel all that nasty infection-causing organisms before they can develop into an infection.
Many people believe that cranberries are a cure for UTIs. Studies have not been able to conclusively prove the tart berry as helpful but it is certainly not harmful. Some scientists believe that drinking cranberry juice can be helpful in preventing UTIs in those who are genetically predisposed to get UTIs by increasing the acidity in the urine and make it a less hospitable environment for bacteria to grow.
Others believe that cranberry juice makes it harder for infection causing bacteria to stick to urinary walls.
5. Change your Birth Control
UTIs occur mainly during a woman’s reproductive and post menopausal years. Women who experience recurring UTIs can face an unending cycle of symptoms, diagnosis and antibiotics. This cycle can often only be broken when the root cause of the infection is determined.
If you have tried lifestyle changes and are still experiencing frequent UTIs (three or more in 12 months or two or more in six months) you may want to speak to your healthcare provider about changing your birth control methods.
UTIs may be Inevitable
While no one wants to get a UTI, some women may be at a higher risk. Genetic factors, such as abnormal urinary tract or function cannot be addressed by lifestyle changes alone.
Unsure of your risk for a UTI? Chat with one of our doctors now!
Read next: 7 Amazing Facts about Periods
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Kate Killoran M.D.
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