Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common health problem — approximately 20% of women will have a UTI at some point in their lives. And, once you have one UTI, your chances of having another one increase. Your best bet is to take care of your body to avoid getting a UTI in the first place.
Marsha D. Bornt, MD, Donna Lamson, CRNP, MSN, WHNP-BC, and the all-women team at Apple Hill Gynecology, in York, Pennsylvania, have plenty of experience in diagnosing and treating UTIs. Fortunately, these infections are usually easy to treat, but educating yourself and taking steps to avoid them can help you avoid significant pain.
What is a UTI anyway?
Your urinary tract starts in your kidneys and includes your ureters, bladder, and urethra. A UTI occurs when bacteria enter your urethra. If left untreated, the infection can travel from your urethra, eventually reaching your kidneys.
UTIs cause some uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Painful urination
- Pain in your lower abdomen, side, or lower back
- Frequent urges to urinate
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
You might also experience a fever, vomiting, or pain during sex.
How to prevent UTIs
The best ways to avoid getting a UTI are limiting the chances of bacteria entering your urethra and flushing out your urinary tract.
Wipe front to back
This should be common sense. When you wipe after using the bathroom, you should always wipe from front to back. Your rectum is the primary source of E. coli in your body. Wiping from front to back reduces the chances of bacteria from your anus reaching your urethra or your vagina.
Drink plenty of water
You should also try to drink plenty of water. Your kidneys filter waste and excess fluids out of your blood and lymph symptoms. When you drink more water, you urinate more frequently, which prevents the buildup of bacteria in your urinary tract.
Urinate before and after sex
Sexual activity can spread bacteria and push it toward your urethra opening. If you urinate before and after sex, you can flush out any bacteria. If possible, you can gently wash your genitals before sex to eliminate any unwanted bacteria on your skin.
Don’t hold your urine
Obviously, sometimes you will have to hold on until you can make it to a bathroom, but in general, you should go as soon as you feel the urge. Holding your urine can encourage bacteria growth in your urinary tract.
Avoid scented feminine hygiene products
Everyone wants to smell fresh and clean, but you don’t need to rely on scented chemical products like douches and feminine wipes. Use unscented soap and warm water instead of scented products that can disrupt your pH balance and allow bacteria to thrive.
Taking probiotics is another excellent way to maintain a healthy microbiome. Your body needs bacteria but in a precise balance. Probiotics can help your body keep a healthy balance of bacteria inside and out.
Talk to us about your birth control
Some contraceptives such as diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, and spermicidal gels can increase your risk of UTIs. If you experience chronic UTIs, talk to us about your birth control. We can evaluate your risk and recommend other types of birth control with a lower risk of UTIs.
If you have any signs of a UTI, call our office, or make an appointment online today. We offer quick urinalysis to confirm that a UTI is causing your symptoms and can prescribe antibiotics to help your body fight off the infection.