Have you struggled with painful urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the past? You’re not alone. Because of anatomical differences, women are generally more likely to contract UTIs than men. These infections are typically caused by the bacteria E. coli, causing symptoms like frequent urination, burning or pain with urination, cloudy urine, blood in urine, and pelvic pain.
Although they’re usually easy to treat with antibiotics, each time you have a UTI, your risk of contracting another one in the future increases. With this in mind, prevention is key. So, what can you do to reduce your risk of getting a UTI?
1) Fill up on fluids.
Drinking a lot of fluids will keep you hydrated, which keeps you peeing often throughout the day, which helps flush bacteria our of your urinary tract system. Water is the best option, and you should aim for at least 6-8 glasses per day. Limiting caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks, which can irritate the bladder, can help with UTI prevention too.
2) Wipe from front to back.
One of the reasons women are more prone to UTIs than men is because of the proximity of the vagina/urethra to the anal area. This makes it easy to accidentally spread bacteria from the anus to the urinary tract. To avoid this transfer of bacteria, always wipe carefully from front to back when you go to the bathroom. It’s also a good idea to wipe up front first, then use a separate piece of toilet paper to wipe the back.
3) Urinate after sex.
Sexual activity is a common way for bacteria to get introduced into the vagina/urethra. Peeing after you have intercourse can help flush out any bacteria that may have ended up in your urinary tract. Try to go ASAP after you’re done. On a related note, you should avoid holding in urine anyway. Always go when you get the urge to pee, which should be about every 3-4 hours, instead of waiting for a more convenient time or place.
4) Skip the scented products.
Certain feminine “hygiene” products can interfere with your vagina’s natural balance of bacteria. This imbalance can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, which can then cause UTIs and other infections. Avoid products with chemicals that can cause this type of bacterial overgrowth, such as scented soaps, deodorant sprays, powders, and scented pads and tampons. You should also never douche, or wash the inside of your vagina, as this can also throw off vaginal pH.
5) Avoid certain birth control options.
Similarly, some methods of birth control can also cause bacterial imbalance and overgrowth that can lead to a UTI. These include diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, and spermicides. Some good birth control options to consider instead are birth control pills, IUD, and lubricated condoms, just to name a few.
6) Try cranberries or probiotics.
Some studies have shown, although the evidence is not conclusive, that both cranberries and probiotics can help regulate bacteria and prevent UTIs. The proof is stronger for probiotics, which are already known to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. Some experts believe they can also promote good bacterial growth in your urinary tract. You can get probiotics through supplements or certain fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir. Cranberries and cranberry juice may also help decrease bad bacterial overgrowth in your urinary tract, though studies about it have had mixed results.
At South Avenue Women’s Services, we offer full-service well woman care for all of your reproductive and sexual health needs. If you’re experiencing uncomfortable symptoms of a UTI or other condition, our specialists can diagnose and treat the problem, and have you feeling better in no time.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our Rochester practice!