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UTIs: How to Prevent and What to Do if You Get One

A necessary read. 

If you’re reading this, it might not be too late to start preventing your first UTI from happening. If you’ve already had or currently have one, my heart is with you. During the past few months, I’ve had my own first experiences with UTIs- from a hundred bathroom breaks a day to crying in the urgent care from pain. After reaching out to doctors and other women regarding the topic, I’ve rounded up some tips you might not know of. I sure didn’t. Unfortunately, UTIs are one of those topics we aren’t taught about in sex ed/health class that we probably end up learning about only once they happen. If you take anything from this article, pass it on in your next wellness discussion.

1. Cranberry is your best friend. 

So, what’s all the fuss with cranberry? It seems as if everyone recommends it and rightfully so. Cranberry helps make your urine more acidic, and the A-type proanthocyanidins in cranberries can prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. In other words, cranberries can help flush out whatever bacteria that cause UTIs. Tip: If you’re not a fan of the juice itself, cranberry supplements are also available over the counter. AZO has some great ones, along with other female health products. 

2. Wipe from front to back. 

Maybe you were taught this when you were potty trained or maybe you weren’t. It makes sense to wipe your behind from front to back, but what about your vaginal area? Personally, I think it’s a bit uncomfortable to wipe it from front to back and have always thought it makes more sense to wipe the vaginal area forward, just because it feels the most intuitive. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I read on a vaginal wipe “wipe from front to back.” The problem with not wiping the vaginal area from front to back is that bacteria can then spread from the rear of your vaginal area to the front (where your urethra is located). The fewer bacteria that pass/wipes through that area, the better.

3. Pee before and after sex.

This one is a bit more known, but surprisingly lots of people don’t know of it- both men and women. Whether it’s casual sex, relationship sex, and whether or not there’s penetration, peeing before and after sex is essential. 

4. Use a baby wipe before sex.

A combination of 2 and 3- wiping correctly and getting rid of bacteria before sexual relations- all partners (yes, males, too) wiping before can help reduce bacteria and the odds of it spreading to your urethra during foreplay or to your partner’s. 

5. Don’t hold in your pee.

Sure, sometimes you’re driving and can’t instantly pull over or you're taking a timed exam and don’t think you can afford to not use every minute. We can’t always go but being mindful of not holding it in unnecessarily or for too long can help prevent UTIs and other complications. This is because holding in your pee for too long, or too often, can lead to bacteria build-up.

6. Reduce bubble bath frequencies. 

Bubble bath products can mess up PH levels due to the fragrant ingredients and irritate the vaginal area and infections. If you do take bubble baths, try to use products with as little fragrance as possible and organic. 

7. Change out of wet clothes as soon as possible.

Wet clothes create the type of moist environment that bacteria thrive in, which makes wet bathing suits and sweaty workout clothes cause for yeast infections and UTIs. Tip: If your gym has a shower, try showering right after a workout and changing into clean clothes. 

8. Clean sex toys before using them again.

Bacteria can build up on used sex toys, regardless of how quick of use it was. “Your urethra, which is very (close) to your clitoris, [can] become exposed to a number of infection-causing microbes,” says Bhandari. Koushik Shaw, M.D., a board-certified urologist and founder of the Austin Urology Institute.

9. Wear 100% cotton panties. 

Yes, lace is pretty and fun, but it (along with any other non-cotton fabric) might be causing irritation and leading to infections. Synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, and spandex trap heat and moisture. Cotton is breathable and wicks away moisture [so that bacteria has less of a chance to thrive], says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD.

10. Go get tested as soon as you experience a symptom.

Unattended UTIs can lead to complications, such as kidney infections and lots of pain and discomfort. Symptoms include: burning when you pee, uncomfortably heavy bladder (it will feel different than being bloated), constantly feeling the urgency to pee, releasing very small amounts of urine when you do go, blood in the urine or when you wipe, pain in your urethra area (you’ll know when it’s happening and it can be rather constant). The best way to make sure and be properly treated is to go get tested. Tip: You can visit your local urgent care where they can perform a test based on your urine sample. They will prescribe the correct medication based on what bacteria it is that’s causing the UTI (yes, there exists more than one possibility).

11. Drink lots of water.

The less water you drink, the less you pee. So, the more bacteria that could accumulate and stick to your urethra, the higher the possibility of getting a UTI. Drinking more water = peeing more = flushing out bacteria. About a gallon a day is an optimal amount. Tip: water bottles with time marks can help you keep track.

12. Take AZO urinary pain relief if in pain. 

As someone who has taken this pill when crying from urethra pain, I can definitely recommend it. While it is not a substitute for antibiotics, it can certainly help you go about your day a bit better while the antibiotics do their job.

13. If you get multiple UTIs within a month or two, go see a urologist. 

Some women are more prone to UTIs than others and (as you can probably tell by this non-exhaustive list) there is so much to take into account regarding UTIs. Seeing a specialist is one of the best ways to be clear as to why they’re happening to you and what your plan of action to treat and prevent will be. Tip: Do not go to the first urologist you find, unless you need to see one urgently. Make some quick google searches for a few and read the reviews.