Do you experience burning pain when you go to the bathroom? Do you feel like you need to pee all the time? Do you have pain in your lower back, nausea, vomiting or dizziness? You may have a urinary tract infection, or UTI. Although some women are more prone to UTIs (especially those who have diabetes or are post-menopausal), most women can avoid future urinary infections by following these simple guidelines.
How do you get a UTI?
A UTI develops in one of two ways: when outside bacteria get pushed into the urethra, or when bacteria already in the bladder multiply to unhealthy levels. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria that is already in the bladder, so flushing this out is the most effective way to ward off infection.
11 easy steps to avoid UTIs
At Westchester Health, our urologists, OB/GYNs and even general practitioners see a lot of UTIs. Based on their years of experience, they have compiled the following guidelines to help women everywhere reduce their risk and avoid the pain and aggravation of urinary tract infections.
Drink plenty of fluids
This means you’ll have to use the restroom more often but this flushes out your bladder as well as any bacteria congregating there. Not only does drinking a lot a fluid help move things through the urinary tract, it also dilutes the urine so bacteria can’t grow as easily. At Westchester Health, we recommend 6-8 cups a day.
Empty your bladder after sex
Sexual intercourse can transport bacteria from the vagina into the urethra. Urinating after sex flushes out any bacteria that could have migrated to the bladder during intercourse.
Don’t hold it — when you need to go, go
When urine sits in your bladder, it becomes stagnate fluid, an ideal environment for an infection to develop. To prevent this, go to the bathroom at least every 4-6 hours, and more often (every 3 hours) if you’re prone to UTIs.
Wipe from front to back
Bacteria that finds its way into your urethra comes from two places: your vagina and your rectum. Wiping back to front, especially after a bowel movement, is the main reason rectal bacteria get introduced into the vagina and urethra.
Douching sends a stream of water, or water mixed with antiseptics like vinegar, into your vagina to wash out bad-smelling vaginal bacteria. However, it also washes out good bacteria, disrupting the natural balance in your vagina and allowing more bad bacteria to grow. The lactobacillius (good bacteria) in the vagina kill off bacteria that can cause UTIs, and since the vagina and the urethra sit next to each other, lactobacillis in that area controls the growth of bad bacteria.
Take cranberry supplements
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which many experts believe prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder. However, cranberry products are unregulated and don’t all contain the same amount of proanthocyanidins. Be careful not to take more than the daily recommendation, since some studies have suggested a link between overuse of cranberry supplements and kidney stones.
Choose your contraceptives wisely
If you’re prone to UTIs, you might want to avoid spermicides and diaphragms. Spermicides can not only introduce bacteria into your vagina but they also alter your vaginal pH, which can foster bacterial overgrowth. Diaphragms are less harmful, but can cause problems if they inhibit your ability to empty your bladder completely.
Replace baths with showers if you are super prone to getting UTIs. Although many women can take baths and have no problems, others cannot. The reason? Bath water can collect bacteria from your skin or bath products in the water that and introduce it to your vagina.
Wear breathable underwear
Tight, synthetic underwear fabric can create a moist area that breeds bacteria. If you often get UTIs and think your underwear may be a cause, change to 100% cotton and see if that makes a difference.
Some studies have shown that taking probiotic supplements or eating probiotic foods can help populate good vaginal bacteria.
Change out of sweaty workout clothes and wet swimsuits immediately
You should always quickly change from wet or sweaty bathing suits, underwear or workout leggings or shorts into dry clothes. This will eliminate the risk of bacteria multiplying and migrating into your urethra.
Concerned about UTIs? Please come see us.
If you think you have a UTI, or find that you are getting UTIs frequently, please make an appointment with Westchester Health to see one of our urology specialists for an accurate diagnosis and immediate treatment, as well as advice on how to prevent future UTIs. The sooner we can begin treatment, the faster you can get relief and start to feel better. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.