According to the NIH, about half of women and 12% of men suffer at least one urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lives. If you’ve ever had one — or even heard about one — you know it isn’t something you want.
At Rose Family Practice and Urgent Care in Vancouver and Battleground, Washington, our doctors urge you to come in for treatment as soon as you have symptoms of a UTI. In the meantime, minimize your risk for a UTI by adopting a few easy changes:
Change your sexual habits.
A UTI is caused by bacterial overgrowth in your urinary tract. Having sex can transfer bacteria from one partner to another, or from one part of your genital area to another.
Be sure to always shower or wash your genitals and hands thoroughly with a gentle cleanser before any kind of sexual activity. Urinating directly after sex flushes away bacteria that may have collected during intercourse. Wash or rinse gently after urinating, too.
Change your birth control.
Spermicides cause irritation to the male urethra that increases its susceptibility to infection. Men can wear condoms to protect themselves from spermicides (and protect both partners from sexually transmitted diseases).
You might also consider switching your birth-control method to contraception that doesn’t require spermicides. Natural methods, such as withdrawal and rhythm methods, require more commitment and aren’t usually as effective as other types of contraception, but they don’t use spermicide or any other type of chemicals or hormones to prevent pregnancy.
If you’re a woman, your OB/GYN can insert an intrauterine device (IUD) into your uterus that prevents it from building up the nourishing lining that a fertilized egg needs for implantation and growth. You can get an IUD that releases contraceptive hormones, or opt for a hormone-free version.
An IUD can stay in place for years without needing to be changed. An IUD is a reversible type of birth control, so whenever you want to be pregnant, you simply ask your doctor to remove it.
You could also opt for hormonal contraception, which can come in the form of:
- Vaginal ring
If you or your partner have frequent UTIs and are currently using diaphragms or cervical caps with spermicide, or contraceptive sponges, talk to your Rose Family Practice physician about what other methods might be right for you.
Change your bathroom habits.
Holding your urine for too long or releasing only small amounts at a time can lead to a backup and buildup of bacteria. Urinate whenever your bladder is full, and be sure you completely empty it.
Women should only wipe from front to back after urination. Wiping back to front risks transferring bacteria from your anus to your vagina and urinary tract.
If you’re menstruating, change your menstrual pad every few hours, even if you haven’t soaked it through. Bacteria from menstrual blood proliferate on the pad thanks to the warmth of your body. Changing the pad frequently prevents them from overgrowing and moving into your urinary tract.
Change your drinking habits.
Water not only hydrates every cell in your body, it flushes out your urinary tract so bacteria doesn’t have a chance to collect. A UTI can affect any area of your urinary tract, including:
- Bladder — organ that stores urine
- Urethra — tube through which you pass urine
- Ureters — tubes from your kidneys to your urethra
- Kidneys — organs that produce urine
Our doctors recommend drinking at least 8-10 glasses of BPA-free, filtered water per day. If you’re active, drink more, and always drink when you’re thirsty; thirst is a sign that you’re already dehydrated. In addition, consider cutting out or cutting down on bladder- irritating beverages, including alcohol, coffee, and some juices.
Don’t wait to treat your UTI. If you notice changes in the way you feel when you urinate or changes to the color of smell of your urine, call or visit us as soon as possible. You can drop in or phone ahead during office hours.