written by Natalie Pattillo

Body Banter

Meet Ur-Rethra

Pop quiz: What's tubular, 2" long, about the width of a spaghetti noodle, and hangs out near your vagina all day? It's Urrrrrr-rethra! Yup, our oft-overlooked third hole serves as a passageway for pee to exit the body, but gets close to nil attention in women's health convos. So today we're talking 'bout your urethra (Miss Ur-Rethra if you're nasty) - the Queen of Streams...the Gatekeeper of Tinkle Town...the Princess of the Pee Palace....ok, you get the idea.

Ur-Rethra is cozied up within your vaginal wall and is made up of a thin fibromuscular (fibrous + muscular tissue) that extends through the lower opening of our bladder. The Queen of Streams also has a crown (more formally know as a sphincter) that shuts off the passageway so pee stays in your bladder until it's time to release that 16 oz almond milk latte you downed this morning. 

Okay, now let's take it a few steps back...so you can get the full view of Ur-Rethra's queendom.

Pee is created when kidneys filter waste & water from your blood. Then, the pee travels to the kidneys and bladder via an identical set of tubes known as ureters (let's call 'em Ur-Rethra's twin cousins). And the pee lives in your bladder until your brain has signaled to you that it's time for you to run or awkwardly speed walk to your closest Starbucks or McDonalds restroom (employees there don't typically judge when you use their facilities w/o purchasing a macchiato or Big Mac).

Women's urethras are about 6 inches shorter than men's, which is why we're more likely to leak (no tiny bladder syndrome here, ladies) or develop urinary tract infections. Ur-Rethra and your entire urinary system is designed to block out most microscopic invaders, but sometimes the defense can be unsuccessful. So, UTIs typically happen when bacteria travels into your urinary tract through Ur-Rethra. From there, the bacteria multiples in your bladder and *wham* you've (unfortunately) got a full-blown UTI.

There are two most common types of UTIs: infection of the bladder (cystitis) or infection of urethra (urethritis). So while we're at it, let's debunk the myth that UTIs are mostly caused by sex. If you have cystitis, having sex may have been the culprit, but you don't have to be sexually active to get a UTI. Why? Because all women are at risk of cystitis due to super short distance from the urethra to the b-hole (aka anus) and the urethral opening to the bladder (perfect conditions for bacteria to jet set into your urinary tract 😁). Then urethritis can happen when bacteria from your gastrointestinal tract spreads from the anus to Ur-Rethra. Again, because the female urethra is so close to the vagina, STIs like herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia can cause urethritis. It can be like one big pot of jambalaya, down there, so do your best to take care of your lovely parts (def recommend a bidet attachment from our sister brand, Tushy).

Ok, ok, but you're wondering how Ur-Rethra relates to dribble dilemmas, right? Good question. Folks with urge incontinence have their brains telling them that they need to pee *before* their bladder is full. If you have stress incontinence, your pelvic floor muscles that support your bladder and Ur-Rethra are weakened or compromised due to childbirth, injury, certain meds, surgery, or a cornucopia of other reasons. The Queen of Streams's "crown" (aka sphincter) is a muscle around the opening of the bladder. Sooo, if that sphincter muscle is weak, it can accidentally let out pee when you run, sneeze, cough, have sex, or even just stand up. If you're an aspiring Kegel pro, those exercises can def help keep Ur-Rethra strong and working well, which can help fix your leaky faucet. On the flip side, it's important to note that Kegels aren't for everyone (i.e. - some women's pelvic floors are too tight so Kegels can make leaks even worse) so we encourage getting an individual assessment from your healthcare provider!

Phew, there you have it, lovely ladies. The Ur-Rethra 101 you've been yearning for your whole lives (heh).

*~Let us know what oft-ignored body parts should we tackle next! Email me: natalie@shethinx.com~*