Let’s not sugar coat it: urinary tract infections suck. But the worst part about UTIs? They like to come back. 27% of women will experience another UTI within 6 months of the first one. Even after treatment, there are so many ways that one infection can turn into a UTI boomerang.
UTIs happen when bacteria enters the urethra and infects the urinary tract. The majority of UTIs occur in the bladder, but if left untreated, they can spread to the kidneys and cause serious damage.
UTI symptoms range from concerning to annoying to totally uncomfortable. You might have a UTI if you’re experiencing:
- Sudden strong urges to pee
- A burning sensation when you pee
- Cloudy urine
- Red or brown urine
- A strange odour to your pee
- Pelvic pain
Yep, we told you UTIs suck. Most infections can be treated right away with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. But what causes UTIs to happen in some people more than others? Here are 8 reasons why you might be getting recurrent UTIs.
- You’re a woman
Sorry, ladies. But the female anatomy automatically puts women at risk for getting UTIs more often. In fact, women are 8 times more likely to get a UTI than men.
Here’s the deal: the female urethra sits close to the vagina and anus, where bacteria likes to gather. E. coli is an especially pesky bacteria that can make its way from the intestines to the urethra. Plus, a woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s, so bacteria can get to the urinary tract quicker.
Long story short, having a vagina could be the reason you get UTIs more often. Our top tip to avoid bacteria spread down there is to keep things squeaky clean. Always have high-quality cleansing wipes on hand to kill off any excess bacteria before it can cause an infection.
- You’re going through menopause
Menopause is a wild and beautiful time, but it’s also a time when the female body becomes more susceptible to UTIs.
Menopause causes estrogen levels to decline, which can change the pH balance in the vagina and make the skin around it irritated and fragile. These are the perfect conditions for bacteria to thrive.
If you’re experiencing frequent UTIs during or post-menopause, talk to your doctor about taking estrogen. For example, some women like to use topical estrogen treatments that also reduce skin irritation.
- You’re getting older
Apart from menopause, ageing, in general, can be a cause of frequent UTIs for women and men. Women often suffer bladder prolapse, which is when the bladder starts to fall into the vagina (yikes). For men, prostates become enlarged as they age.
Both of these conditions can stop urine from completely leaving the bladder. If pee sits in the bladder for too long, bacteria starts to multiply and spread.
- You stopped taking antibiotics before you were supposed to
If this is you, we’re not judging. (We promise). But the fact is, you might have put yourself at risk for more UTIs down the road.
Antibiotics are a surefire way to cure most UTIs fast and effectively. Your doctor will choose the best treatment duration for your diagnosis, which is typically between 3 and 10 days. Most people start to feel better after 3 days and decide to toss the other 7 days out the window.
Stopping your antibiotics before they’re done is a major UTI risk. Bacteria can still linger and grow, even if your symptoms are gone. Plus, bacteria will likely become resistant to the antibiotics, making it almost impossible to treat future infections.
- You have lazy bathroom habits
We all have that one thing we’re lazy about. If yours is washroom hygiene, that might be why UTIs keep killing your vibe.
For women, wiping back to front is a big UTI trigger. Remember that E. coli we mentioned earlier? By wiping forward instead of backward, you’re basically making its trip to your urethra a whole lot easier.
Another bad habit to break is holding in your pee. The more full your bladder is, the more time bacteria has to grow. By drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day and peeing whenever you feel the urge, you can continuously flush bacteria out of the system before it takes hold.
- You’re having sex
Nothing ruins the moment like a frequent UTI. Sex is one of the most common ways for a UTI to make a comeback. It shakes up the bacteria already in the vagina and brings new bacteria in. Switching from anal to vaginal sex is an example of how bacteria can move around and find its way to the urethra.
Certain types of birth control can also be risky. Some condom and spermicide brands cause irritations that turn into infections. Sperm stoppers, like diaphragms, can put pressure on the urethra, making bladder emptying more difficult. Plus, contraceptives that decrease a woman’s estrogen levels can also make her more susceptible to recurrent UTIs (just like with menopausal women).
To stop getting UTIs from sex, make sure you pee before and after intercourse. Always have cleansing wipes nearby to clean toys and genitals in between locations. And talk to your doctor about switching birth controls to something a bit more UTI-friendly.
- You have a health condition
For some people, UTIs are a side effect of a medical issue. Spinal cord injuries and nerve damage around the bladder can both affect bladder emptying. Kidney stones can block the natural flow of pee. Most notably, diabetes can damage the immune system and force excess sugar into the urine, which bacteria feeds on in the urinary tract.
If you suffer from a health condition that might be causing frequent UTIs, talk to your doctor about ways to prevent and treat future infections.
- You don’t have a UTI prevention plan
Okay, so you’ve mastered numbers 1 through 7, but you’re still getting regular UTIs. The fact is, some people are just genetically more susceptible to urinary tract infections. It could be the way your urinary tract is shaped or even that UTIs run in your family. Regardless, not having a game plan for preventing UTIs is like sending them a VIP invitation to come back for more.
Natural remedies, like cranberries, can prevent bacterial growth and reduce frequent UTIs. Cranberries are packed with a powerful micronutrient called proanthocyanidins (PACs). Studies show that PACS can stop bacteria from sticking to the bladder walls so that it continues to move through the urinary tract. By taking a daily PACs supplement with at least 15% concentration, you can be proactive about your UTI health.
Here are other key tips for preventing recurrent UTIs:
- Drink lots of water and pee often, especially before and after sex.
- Keep things extra clean around your vagina and rectum.
- If you need to take antibiotics, make sure you finish ‘em.
- Talk to your doctor about ways to balance your estrogen levels.
- Be mindful of bacteria during sex and when choosing a contraceptive.