There are few things worse than the sensation of burning while you urinate. You have to pee. It’s not like you can stop doing it. But when it that sensation arises, all you want is relief. In this article, we will discuss gynecologist-approved ways to prevent UTI, or urinary tract infections.
What is a UTI?
A UTI stands for urinary tract infection. This is an infection of the bladder and urethra, which is the tube where the urine comes out. Bacteria doesn’t belong in this space. Bacteria is normally present in the vagina and anal region, but when it comes to the hole where urine comes out, the urethra, bacteria are not welcome. If bacteria do get in there, they cause irritation, and sometimes even discoloration of the urine.
A bacterial infection, if not treated, can worsen and lead to a kidney infection. A kidney infection is a very severe illness. It is important for urinary tract infections to be prevented, and treated thoroughly if present so that they don’t become kidney infections.
What are symptoms of UTI?
The main symptom is usually burning during urination and/or pain in the lower pelvis. Urinary frequency is a common symptom, which means that you feel like you have to go to the bathroom very frequently, but very little comes out. Urgency causes you to feel like you have to go RIGHT NOW, even if there isn’t a lot of urine to come out. Some people will even see blood in their urine, called hematuria.
To prevent UTI, you have to understand what causes UTI?
Some people are just prone to infections, meaning they aren’t doing anything “wrong” but they just seem to happen often. Some people get urinary tract infections because they aren’t wiping properly. A woman should wipe form front to back, in the direction of urethra to vagina to anus. If she wipes from back to front, she is pulling bacteria, specifically E. Coli from the anal area toward the urethra. This can increase the chance of developing a UTI.
Watch me explain this and demonstrate on Refinery29 with Lucie Fink of the Fink Tank.
Sexual intercourse can also lead some to urinary tract infections. This can sometimes be due to cross contamination from the anal area with toys or not changing condoms. Some can find themselves with recurrent infections even WITHOUT anal play.
How many UTIs are too many?
The definition of recurrent UTI is greater than 3 in 1 year. Some people can identify triggers. Others who receive antibiotics without bladder testing but soon develop symptoms again should wonder if their initial infection was ever treated properly.
There is a difference between recurrence and a persistent infection that was not properly treated. Recurrence means that the infection went away completely, even on culture, but came back again. Persistent infection means that a lot the bacteria died, but not all of it. The remaining bacteria replicate and learn how to not die.
Can antibiotics cause or contribute to recurrent UTI?
Yes. There are 2 ways that antibiotics cause or contribute to recurrent UTI. One way is by taking the wrong antibiotics, which can happen if you take antibiotics without providing a urine sample that can be sent for culture. A urine culture is done to grow out the bacteria that is the urine. That bacteria is first identified, then tested for susceptibility to multiple types of antibiotics. That’s how we determine which antibiotic will kill the bacteria.
If you don’t provide a urine sample the first time that you suspect you have a UTI, everything may be okay with presumptive treatment. If you have recurrent infections without providing a urine sample for testing, you run the risk of getting the wrong antibiotic and developing antibiotic resistance. And even if you do receive the correct antibiotic, it is still possible to develop resistance to the antibiotic because of repeated exposure.
It’s like running the same play over and over again a football game. At first in may work, but eventually the other team realizes what you are doing and they learn how to anticipate your move and dodge it. Bacteria are the same. They can learn the antibiotic’s play.
So how do you prevent UTIs without needing antibiotics every time?
One strategy to prevent UTI is to maintain proper hygiene, as stated earlier. I cannot stress enough how important it is to wipe from front to back. Also, make sure you change condoms or wash toys properly during sex if going from back to front.
Surprisingly, urinating after sex hasn’t be shown to be as effective in preventing UTI as we once thought. Hydration has always been and will always be important, but the act of urinating after intercourse is not as vitally important. I am not saying that it is wrong to urinate after sex. It can’t hurt.
I also recommend D-mannose or Cranberry pills to prevent UTI
Another way to prevent frequent urinary tract infections is to take prophylactic supplements that decrease bacterial presence in the urinary tract, like D-Mannose or Cranberry pills. D-Mannose is a supplement that contains a sugar that binds to bacteria so that the bacteria have to flush out of the bladder rather than stay attached to the walls of the bladder or urethra. Cranberry extract is thought to work in the same way. Used regularly, the frequency of urinary tract infections should reduce.
Remember, these supplements can help prevent UTI in some circumstances. Generally speaking, they won’t treat infections. Anyone who is having repeated infections needs to see a healthcare provider to look for causes and ensure that you are received the proper antibiotic.
Again, do not use bladder care supplements to treat infections. Seek the counsel of a healthcare provider.
Any who, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this musical PSA that I created that brings light to the fact that vaginal or vulvar itching is not a symptom of UTI. When someone tells me that they think they have a UTI because they have been experiencing itching, I try to remind them that them that theat those symptoms sound more like yeast infection symptoms than urinary tract infection symptoms.