UTIs. They’re common, they’re annoying, and they can be hard to kill. UTIs are very common, and usually caused by an overgrowth of bacteria (usually E. coli but other bugs can be the culprit) and manifest by a constant urge to go pee, smelly or discoloured urine and pain when you’re peeing. If you have these symptoms, head straight to your doctor for antibiotics - it’s the surest, swiftest way to start feeling better. However, if you’re suffering constant infections, you may want to scale up your efforts. Here’s our top tips.
Get Your Basics Straight
Drink lots of water so your urine is clear. While you’re at it, turn down the volume on caffeine, sugar and alcohol - these substances can either feed bacteria or irritate the bladder, neither of which will help the problem. Wipe front to back, pee after sex, and make sure you’re getting your rest. UTIs are an infection. Good self-care will help!
Befriend Your Doctor
When you’ve got a UTI, do two things - drink lots of water and get in front of a GP. An untreated UTI can travel to your kidneys and cause serious problems. You may have a medical condition that needs further treatment. Post-operative trans women can be particularly prone to UTIs, especially immediately after surgery. You can also be vulnerable due to a change in birth control or other gynecological challenges.
Figure Out If It Is Your Period
Are you experiencing UTIs after your period? Maybe you're noticing a urinary tract infection during your period. Here's the deal:
You can be more vulnerable to UTIs because of hormonal shifts and imbalances; if you use a period tracking app, make a note of your UTIs so you can consult this data alongside your doctor. Don’t be afraid to discuss your results with your doctor - this can be valuable information in determining the root cause of your recurrent infections.
Call In The Cranberries
Cranberry supplements help some people avoid persistent UTIs. Look for a brand with Proanthocyanidins, or PACs. A type of polyphenol, these compounds work by disrupting bacterial attachment to the walls of the urethra. A brand we know and like is Utiva.
Deal With Any Bladder Problems
If you’re experiencing any bladder leakage or weakness in the pelvic floor, mention it to your doctor. If you’re retaining urine due to pelvic floor weakness, consult with a pelvic floor therapist, get an Elvie or just download an app to encourage you to get your Kegels in. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about - it’s a very common, treatable problem.
Keep Your Period Products In Mind
If you always seem to get a UTI after your period, it might be time to consider your menstrual management. Lunapads were originally conceived as a solution to persistent UTIs in our cofounder, Madeleine Shaw. Disposable pads and tampons can cause irritation that could make you more prone to UTIs.
How to prevent a UTI
If you’re using a reusable, make sure you clean it very well (especially after a UTI). If you soak or handwash your pads, consider running them through a washing machine. It can be very hard to remove accumulated soap residue from handwashing, and a wet pad is a breeding ground for bacteria. If you use a menstrual cup, be very sure to fully void your bladder. A menstrual cup that is too firm can squeeze the urethra, making it hard to get all the pee out.
Did you know that having a tilted uterus can actually cause more frequent UTIs? It's true and 1 in 5 people have a tilted uterus and may not know it.
UTIs suck, and a recurrent UTI is a special kind of hell. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself in the doctor’s office. Many physicians now will work with you to find the cause of recurrent UTIs, and you should feel empowered to make changes to help yourself.
Photo by Zackary Drucker for The Gender Spectrum Collection.