By Mia Abrahams
It’s a pretty much universal experience if you’re a woman. You’re locked in the bathroom, tears running down your face, wondering WHY YOU STILL NEED TO PEE IF YOU’VE BEEN PEEING ALL MORNING AND WHY IT HURTS SO DAMN MUCH. SOB.
UTIs are a pain you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy (well, maybe Cersei Lannister), and just one more fun thing to add to the list of fun things that are pretty much bound to happen if you are a sexually active woman. If you haven’t had one (lucky you!) then I’m almost *certain* that your BFF, cousin, college roommate, boss has had one, is having one, or is about to have one.
So what’s the deal? Well, UTIs are quite truly, *the worst*. You constantly feel like you need to pee, it burns or hurts when you do, you have pelvic pain… But, they are incredibly common — your chance of getting a UTI in your lifetime is about 40-50%, and they are the most commonly treated infection in American emergency rooms after only pneumonia — almost 8.1 million visits a year.
That’s a helluva lotta toilet tears.
A UTI is an infection of your bladder and urethra (the thing that carries pee from your bladder out your body). There are bacteria that live all around your V & B (vagina and butt / my new designer clothing label). When this bacteria sneaks into the bladder or urethra, it can cause an infection. It’s more common in women because of our anatomy — our urethra is shorter than a dude’s, so the bacteria has a shorter distance to travel, and it’s also closer to areas that might get a workout during sex.
Even though UTIs are very common, it’s not something you should ignore (even if you can!) because it can spread upwards and cause a kidney infection, which can be serious. If you are feeling back pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, or fever, as well as the other standard UTI symptoms, you should check in with your doctor right away.
So, what can you do to solve a problem like... burning pee? (I couldn’t think of a pee-related word that rhymed with Maria, okay?)
Someone from your college days probably swore to you all it took was a chug from a bottle of sugary Ocean Spray, but actually the UTI-causin’ bacteria lurrrrrves sugar, so sweetened cranberry juice can actually make things worse! While some studies have shown that low-sugar cranberry juice, or supplements, can help prevent recurring UTIs, they are *defs* not a cure if you already have one, and the science around prevention isn’t very strong either.
Luckily, if you are in the throes of a UTI, a course of antibiotics (bacteria-fightin’ magic pills) will sort you out pretty quick (thanks science!!) This will require a trip to your doctor to get a script, and remember to *finish your course* even if you start to feel better — we have enough to worry about in 2017 without an antibacterial-resistant superbug.
If you’ve had a UTI before, there’s a higher risk you’ll have one again — and chronic UTIs are something you really don’t want to deal with. Luckily there’s a bunch of things you can do to help lower your risk of preventing UTIs.
If you’re having sex (get it girllll) your chances of UTIs are definitely higher, so this must be your new mantra, repeat after me: pee after sex, pee after sex, pee after sex. Peeing literally washes away the bad bacteria that might be stuck in your bladder or urethra, reducing the risk of infection. Yes, tearing yourself out of bed and post-sex spooning or panting or sleeping isn’t that fun (especially in winter) but neither is crying on the toilet the next morning. Please note: if you are a woman having sex with a man, there is a 96% chance he will be snoring by the time you get back from the bathroom. Just a head’s up.
If you’re having anal sex/anal anything — make sure that anything that goes in there is cleaned before it touches other genitals — fingers, toys, penises, whatever. Reducing friction can also prevent UTIs, so change up your positions or use a water-based lube to keep things slippin’ and slidin’ down there.
What else? Keep your V clean ‘n’ dry (hmmm, I know some undies that could help with that), and stick to wearing cotton undies. Also, an oldie but a goodie, wipe from front to back and don’t hold your pee! If you gotta go, you gotta go.
Of course, no women’s health column would be complete without ***generic advice warning*** a tip to drink more water! Srsly though, too much coffee and tea and not enough water can irritate your bladder, and water can help dilute your urine and flushes out the bad stuff. Also your skin will look better, you’ll have more energy, you’ll earn more money, you’ll have a meet-cute with Jake Gyllenhaal at Trader Joe’s….
Also, remember, UTIs aren’t infectious (but like, everything else is, so wrap it up, pls) so you can’t spread it to your partner. However, they *can* be caused by STIs — so if you have any concerns about that, ask your doc/nurse to test you when you go in to get your antibiotics (and check out our piece on how *not* to panic if you have an STD). Two birds, one stone.
Sex is probably the last thing you feel like doing when enduring a UTI, and healthcare pros do recommend you put that ish on ice for a couple weeks, until you’re feeling better. Sex can put pressure on your already inflamed urethra/bladder — ouch.
Recurrent UTIs are not fun, but you can definitely work with your doctor/health care pro to find a solution that works for you (friends of mine swear by a low-dose of antibiotics after sex). So let us know what works for you! Any natural UTI preventative methods you swear by?