Sometimes, our lovely bods can hit us with uninvited shenanigans. You know, colds, allergies, indigestion, urinary tract infections (UTIs). Aside from being pretty annoying, UTIs can be as painful as the burning gates of hell. Yes, I’m referring to that uncomfortable scorch you might feel while peeing. Bright side is, like colds, UTIs can be cured and kept at bay. And, it might help knowing that they are super common. In fact, the National Kidney Foundation says that UTIs are responsible for 10 million doctor visits every year and one in five women will experience an infection in her lifetime.
Rachel, a 32-year-old fitness instructor who talked to us about her expeeriences, says her last UTI was most likely caused from not peeing after sex. In case you’re wondering, sex can trigger a UTI because intercourse can move bacteria from the booty hole to near the opening of the urethra. While Rachel isn’t alone, forgetting to pee after sex isn’t the only cause — it’s just the most well-known one. So, to collect UTI *whiz*dom on symptoms, causes, and prevention, we did some investigating for ya.
What Exactly Causes UTIs?
First off, raise your hand if you know which below-the-belt parts can be affected by UTIs. If you know, BRAVA! Seriously give yourself a pat on the back! If you don’t, don’t stress, we were clueless too. UTIs can actually happen anywhere in the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Keep in mind, they most commonly make their debut in the bladder. How? Well, women’s urethras are about 6 inches shorter than men's, which is why we're more likely to leak (no small bladder syndrome here, mmkay) and four times more likely to develop UTIs. The urethra and your entire urinary system is designed to block out most teeny-tiny microscopic invaders, but sometimes that defense can fail. So, UTIs typically happen when bacteria (E.coli, to be exact) travels into your urinary tract through your urethra. From there, the bacteria multiplies in your bladder and then *wham* you've unfortunately been hit with a full-blown UTI.
Lindsey Vestal, our brilliant resident pelvic floor therapist, told us that E.coli transmission can surely happen because of poor hygiene or not peeing after sex. But, she says, those aren’t the only causes. If you exercise a lot or sit for long periods of time, you can unintentionally create a moist environment in your land down unda...AKA prime conditions for E.coli to grow and meander into your urinary tract. Additionally, certain types of birth control such as diaphragms and spermicidal acids can increase UTI risk for women.
While UTIs can happen to girls women of any age (seriously as young as 3 years old), a postmenopausal woman could be slightly more at risk due to:
- a history of chronic UTIs
- using a catheter
- bladder or bowel leakage
- a prolapsed bladder
- estrogen decrease
- the distance between the perineum and the rectum can more likely shorten, which means E.coli can transmit much more readily.
Are All UTIs The Same?
There are actually two most common types of UTIs: infection of the bladder (cystitis) or infection of urethra (urethritis). Again, 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 travel into your urinary tract. Urethritis, however, can happen when bacteria from your gastrointestinal tract spreads from the anus to urethra.
What Does A UTI Feel Like?
Hellacious. Real talk, Rachel said her UTI was so painful that she had to cancel her fitness classes and she felt like sweating and wearing tights might exacerbate it. She had blood in her urine, felt an urge to pee but not really having to when she went to the bathroom, and was feverish.
All of her symptoms are common when it, but every *body* is different. Here’s a list of what else you might experience:
- Cloudy, discolored, and/or off-smelling pee
- Pressure, cramping, or pain around your bladder/pelvis
- Extreme fatigue or feeling shaky
- Burning while peeing, especially in the initial start of the stream
What To Do If You Have A UTI?
- Definitely go to a medical professional when any of the listed symptoms appear or if anything feels off. You know your body best and advocating for your health is always best practice.
- Depending on the severity, a doctor might send you home with antibiotics to fight the infection.
- Give yourself time to rest and recover. Like any infection, your body needs a lot of your energy to fight it off.
- If you have lower back pain, try using hot or cold compresses for relief.
- Drink tons of H20 even when you don’t feel like it because doing so will help flush that unwelcome bacteria outta your bod.
- You’ve also probably heard that drinking pure cranberry juice can help. But, as Lindsey put it, “you’d need take an IV of cranberry juice all day long.” Lindsey explains the rationale for drinking cranberry juice or consuming tons of vitamin C is that it can create an acidic environment in the bladder, which can make conditions unliveable for E.coli. #themoreyouknow
- Instead of attempting to chug gallons of cranberry juice, you can try supplements like D-mannose. If taken in the early stages, it can squash your UTI.
And How Can I Keep Them At Bay?
Of course, we wouldn’t send you away without telling you that you should probably pee after sex for prevention— that definitely helps. But, it’s also good to know that you prevent persistent UTIs through other means:
- Hydrate yourself with our fave elixir - H20! Not drinking enough water can actually irritate your bladder lining.
- Make sure you’re fully emptying your bladder when it’s at capacity (usually it can hold about 16 oz).
- If you feel like you’re not emptying your bladder completely, you might want to ask your medical professional and/or pelvic floor therapist for a cystogram, an examination that takes pictures of your bladder and urethra.
- For those with hypertonic pelvic floors (and/or have trouble peeing everything out), it’s important to seek help from a pelvic floor therapist so you can re-educate the pelvic floor muscles and make it less susceptible to UTIs.
- Don’t forget to wipe front to back.
- If UTIs are happening to you more often, take a look at your birth control to see if that could be the culprit.
- If you’re postmenopausal, talk to your doctor about how your change in ~hormone levels~ can make you prone to UTIs. Some medical professionals will recommend estrogen supplements.
Ready for a miracle solution? Drink Uqora, a simple drink mix designed to fight off bacteria and improve urinary health when you need it, like after sex and long exercise sessions. Uqora combines the bacteria-fighting properties of d-mannose, with other natural ingredients that each play a distinct role in UTI-defense. Uqora drink mix provides multifold defense by flushing out bacteria that causes UTIs, increasing urinary flow (your body’s best natural defense against UTIs) and boosting your immune system, since you're most likely to get a UTI when you're run down.
Remember, the last thing you want to do is ignore a UTI. Squash shame by talking to your doctor and/or pelvic floor therapist (and close friends/partner) about how you’re feeling.
*~Any home remedies you find comforting when dealing with a UTI?~*